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Iraq Protests Planned Nationwide

As John Nichols reports in The Online Beat, White House counselor Dan Bartlett has told the press that President Bush will announce tonight that he plans to commit an additional 21,500 US combat troops to Iraq. Bush will reportedly tell skeptical Americans that it was a mistake to not have more forces fighting the unpopular war in the past.

Specifically, according to breakdowns provided by the White House, 4,000 more Marines will be sent to the violence-torn Anbar Province, while 17,500 more troops will be dispatched to Baghdad. These troops will be sent into a chaotic situation with no discernible mission. Top generals have spoken out against the escalation, and recently-removed CentCom commander Gen John Abizaid reported unanimous opposition among commanders to the surge.

In contrast to Bush who seems poised to recklessly waste more lives and resources in pursuit of his ideological mission and the salvaging of his legacy, Katrina vanden Heuvel shows in Editor's Cut that the new Democratic Congress and peace activists across the nation are crafting alternatives to the president's misbegotten Iraq plan.

Katrina mentions United for Peace and Justice's plans for a January 27 march on Washington. The idea is to show Congress that America wants a peace surge and to push the legislators to listen to the voters, not Bush, and bring the war to a close. The weekend's activities will include an interfaith peace service and a Congressional Education Day on Monday, January 29th. Click here for info on transportation and here for info on housing. And, if you have the time, sign up to be a local coordinator to help mobilize people from your area to come to DC and/or help spread the word by posting flyers, downloading web buttons and sharing videos.

UFPJ is also working with the Win Without War coalition under the banner of "America Says NO to More Troops! End the War!" to launch a wave of local protests within twenty-four hours of Bush's announcement tonight to send more troops to Iraq. There are currently more than 300 events planned nationwide, including a demonstration at the 31st and Riverside Pedestrian Bridge in Tulsa, OK; a leafleting party in Norfolk, VA and a singing protest in Augusta, GA. Click here to find an event near you.

The Rush to Surge

It has been an open secret for weeks that President Bush would reject the message of the American people from the November 7 elections, along with the advice of savvy military strategists and foreign affairs experts, and surge the United States military deeper into the Iraq quagmire.

Now, as the President prepares to confirm his commitment to carry on in the wrong direction, with tonight's primetime address to the American people, Bush's White House has begun to leak details of how many more troops will be dispatched to Iraq--and, even more significant, how quickly those troops will be moved into position.

According to White House counselor Dan Bartlett, Bush will announce that he plans to commit an additional 21,500 US combat troops to the Iraq fight. Specifically, according to breakdowns provided by the White House, 4,000 more Marines will be sent to the violence-torn Anbar Province, while 17,500 more troops will be dispatched to the hell that is Baghdad.

According to the White House, the first new US brigade will hit the ground in Iraq by Monday. The next brigade is expected to arrive by February 15, while additional brigades continuing to enter the country at 30-day increments.

By moving so quickly, the President essentially pushes Congress aside. This is, at least to some extent, the fault of the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate, which has known for weeks that the President was moving in the direction of a surge but which has failed to develop a coherent response.

But make no mistake, the Bush White House is not merely implementing a military strategy with regard to Iraq tonight. It is also implementing a political strategy with regard to Capitol Hill.

The President who has failed to consult with Congress throughout has decided to implement an immediate surge in hopes that it will become a reality before the House and Senate hold hearings, debate or take even the most minimal steps to check and balance his mad schemes.

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John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism has been hailed by authors and historians Gore Vidal,Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn for its meticulous research into theintentions of the founders and embraced by activists for itsgroundbreaking arguments on behalf of presidential accountability.After reviewing recent books on impeachment, Rolling Stone politicalwriter Tim Dickinson, writes in the latest issue of Mother Jones, "JohnNichols' nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic, TheGenius of Impeachment, stands apart. It concerns itself far less withthe particulars of the legal case against Bush and Cheney, and insteadcombines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe "heroic medicine" that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and atwww.amazon.com

Hawkish New Commander for Iraq

Several people have been writing fairly glowing accounts of the "brainy"and essentially anti-inflammatory approach the US military's new command teamin Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus and his number two, Lt.-Gen. Ray Odierno, may bring to their work there. Okay, to be fair, most of these accountshave centered on Petraeus-- who has, I should note, long cultivated his relationshipwith the press. Thus, we have had Juan Cole: "Petraeus is among the real experts on counter-insurgency, and dida fine job... when he was in charge of Mosul"; Trudy Rubin: "one of the Army's smartest and most creative generals", and many others...

However, very few of these people in Petraeus's personal cheering sectionseem to have dug much deeper-- either into Petraeus's own strategic thought,as reflected in the new counter-insurgency manual he helped write during his latest gig as commander of the army's "CombinedArms Center" in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; or into the professional recordof the man who will be in charge of day-to-day operations in Iraq under hisleadership, Ray Odierno.

A first stab at understanding what Odierno might bring to his new job shouldstart with the record of his service as commander of the 4th Infantry Divisionduring its time in Iraq, March 2003 through April 2004. The WaPo'sThom Ricks wrote a lot about that at the time, and has included a lot ofinformation about Odierno in his recent book Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq If you have a copy of the book, then go first to pp. 232-4, and thento pp.279-91. If you don't have a copy, you could go to that Amazon.comlink there, and do a "Search inside the book" for either "Odierno" or "H& I".

H&I, short for "Harrassment and Interdiction" was just one of the aggressivetactics Odierno used in the portion of the Sunni Triangle where the 4th IDwas operating...

On p. 234, Ricks refers to an article Odierno later published in Field Artillery magazine:

He wrote that he often responded with heavy firepower: "We usedour Paladins [155 millimeter self-propelled howitzer systems] the entiretime we were there," he said [probably, "wrote", not "said" ~HC]. "Most nights we fired H&I fires... what I call 'proactive' counter-fire." His conclusion was that "artillery plays a significant role in counter-insurgencyoperations." That assertion is at odds with the great body of successfulcounterinsurgency practice, which holds that firepower should be as restrainedas possible, which is difficult to do with the long-range, indirect fireof artillery.

It should go without saying that there is no such thing as "counter-" firethat is "proactive", i.e., pre-emptive. Basically, what Odierno waswriting about there was a mode of operating inside Iraq that included goingaround firing wildly with some pretty heavy artillery pieces simply to "harrass"and, often pre-emptively, "interdict" any suspected or possibly even quiteimaginary opponents. (Okay, that was just about the same thingthat Bush did in ordering the whole invasion of Iraq, in the first place. To that extent, we could certainly note the unity of approach betweenthe commander-in-chief and Ray Odierno, at that time.)

Over the pages that followed that quote, Ricks also writes a lot about thelethal, esclatory excesses committed by one of the brigade commanders workingunder Odierno in the 4th ID, Col. David Hogg. That portion of the bookis worth reading, too.

On p.232-3, Ricks writes of the 4th ID under Odierno,

Again and again, internal Army reports and commanders in iterviewssaid that this unit-- a heavy armored division, despite its name-- used ham-fistedapproaches that may have appeared to pacify its area in the short term, butin the process alienated large parts of the population.

"The 4th ID was bad," said one Army intelligence officer who worked withthem. "These guys are looking for a fight," he remembered thinking. "I saw so many instances of abuses of civilians, intimidating civilians,our jaws dropped."

"Fourth ID fueled the insurgency," added an Army psychological operationsofficer...

"they are going through neighborhoods, knocking on doors at two in the morningwithout actionable intelligence," said a senior officer. "That's howyou create new insurgents."

A general who served in Iraq, speaking on background, said flatly, "The 4thID-- what they did was a crime."

So here's my question: Why on earth should we be expected to believe thatRay Odierno-- a man who spent the vast majority of his career rising up insidethe "massive land force" portions of the US Army-- has had a complete character/professionalmakeover since April 2004, and that he is now going to go into Iraq withPetraeus and conduct any kind of a "brainy", culturally and politically sensitivecounter-insurgency campaign?

(I'm planning to expand some on the Petraeus part of this topic over at myblog Just World News, within the next couple of hours.)

Past Precedents For Blocking Escalation

Sen. Joe Biden could not have been more wrong when he claimed on Meet the Press on Sunday that Congress does not have the constitutional power to block an escalation of the war in Iraq.

An insightful new report by the Center for American Progress (CAP) gives numerous examples of how past Congresses have acted to change, curtail or end US military deployments--by either refusing to fund them, capping the number of troops available or specifying that a deployment end by a date certain.

"While the president is commander-in-chief," CAP experts Larry Korb and Brian Katulis write, "Congress retains the power (with the consent of the president) to establish the laws by which the United States conducts foreign policy."

Here are just a few of the many relevant examples detailed in the CAP report:

December 1970. P.L. 91-652 – Supplemental Foreign Assistance Law. The Church-Cooper amendment prohibited the use of any funds for the introduction of U.S. troops to Cambodia or provide military advisors to Cambodian forces.

June 1973. P.L. 93-50 – Supplemental Foreign Assistance, "None of the Funds herein appropriated under this act may be expended to support directly or indirectly combat activities in or over Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam by United States forces, and after August 15, 1974, no other funds heretofore appropriated under any other act may be expended for such purposes."

December 1974. P.L. 93-559 – Foreign Assistance Act of 1974. The Congress established a personnel ceiling of 4000 Americans in Vietnam within six months of enactment and 3000 Americans within one year.

December 1982. P.L. 98-215 – Defense Appropriations Act. In what became known as the Boland Amendment, Congress prohibited covert military assistance for Nicaragua.

June 1983. P.L. 98-43 – The Lebanon Emergency Assistance Act of 1983. The Congress required the president to return to seek statutory authorization if he sought to expand the size of the U.S. contingent of the Multinational Force in Lebanon.

Moreover, throughout the 1990s, both Democrats and Republicans unsuccessfully tried to limit or prohibit US military assistance and operations in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Rational presidents from both parties consulted with and listened to the Congress. President Gerald Ford was particularly aware of Congress's influence in the realm of national security. In April 1975, after Congress had forced an end to combat operations in Vietnam, General William Westmoreland tried to convince Ford to send American troops back in. But according to his autobiography, Ford told Westmoreland no. If he defied the Congress, Ford said, he'd be impeached.

The GOP's 100 Hour Plan

It's always fascinating to see how one side views the other in politics. Scrolling through my inbox last night, I noticed that Republicans had a very different conception of the House Democrats' 100 hour plan, both substantively and rhetorically. They've even renamed the key provisions.

The Dems "Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations,"--under consideration today in the House--became the GOP's "Not Fully Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations."

"The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007," sponsored by Democrat George Miller and scheduled for debate tomorrow, transformed into the GOP's "Minimum Wage Increase Without Assistance for Small Business."

The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act = The Destruction of Human Embryos for Research.

The Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act = Government "Negotiated" Drug Prices.

No word yet on what they're calling the Democratic plans to cut student loan rates in half and roll back tax breaks for oil companies. How about "Welfare for College Students" and "Tax Increase for Texas."

Pentagon Dystopia

In our world, the Pentagon and the national security bureaucracy have largely taken possession of the future. In an exchange in 2002, journalist Ron Suskind reported a senior adviser to President Bush telling him:

"that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. ‘We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality… We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"

Slowly, step by step, the present White House has found itself forced back into at least the vicinity of the reality-based community. This week we may, in fact, get to hear one of the last of this President's great Iraqi fictions.

The same cannot be said of the Pentagon and the Intelligence Community (IC). They have settled into the future and taken it in hand in a business-like, if somewhat lurid, way. It's the Pentagon that, in 2004, was already producing futuristic studies about a globally warmed world from Hell; it's the Pentagon's blue-skies research agency, DARPA, that regularly lets scientists and other thinkers loose to dream wildly about future possibilities (and then, of course, to create war-fighting weaponry and other equipment from those dreams). It's the National Nuclear Security Administration that is hard at work dreaming up the nature of our nuclear arsenal in 2030.

Typical is the National Intelligence Council, a "center of strategic thinking within the U.S. Government, reporting to the Director of Central Intelligence." In 2005, it was already expending much effort to create fictional scenarios for 2010, 2015, and 2020. Someone I know recently attended workshops the Council's long-range assessment unit organized, trying to look at the "threats after next" -- and this time they were deep into the 2020s.

The future -- whether imagined as utopian or dystopian -- was, not so long ago, the province of dreamers, or actual writers of fiction, or madmen and cranks, or reformers and journalists, or even wanna-be war-fighters, but not so regularly of actual war-fighters, or secretaries of defense, or presidents. In our time, the Pentagon and the IC have quite literally become the fantasy-based community. And yet, strangely enough, the urge of our top policy-makers (and allied academics and scientists) to spend their time in relatively distant futures has been little explored or considered by others.

A couple of things can be said about this near compulsion. First, it's largely confined to the arts of war. There is no equivalent in our government when it comes to health care or education, retirement or housing. No well-funded government think-tanks and lousy-with-loot research organizations are ready to let anyone loose dreaming about our planet's endangered environment, for instance. The future -- the only one our government seems truly to care about -- is most distinctly not good for you. It's a totally weaponized, grimly dystopian health hazard for the planet.

Of course, future fictions are notorious for their wrong-headedness. All you have to do is check out old utopian or dystopian fiction, if you don't believe me. The scandal here is not that, like most human beings, our soldiers and spies are sure to be desperately wrong on most aspects of their future fictions. The scandal is that we're mortgaging our wealth and our futures, whatever they may be, to their bloodcurdling, self-interested, and often absurd fantasies. After all, they're running a giant, massively profitable business operation off fictional futures, while creating their own armed reality at our expense.

For a peek at the Pentagon's vision of how to fight in Baghdad 2025, check out Nick Turse's latest piece at Tomdispatch.com.

The Senator Who Will Not Surge

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, are trying to figure out how to respond to the to the expected presidential proposal for to surge the United States deeper into the quagmire that is Iraq.

But the man who, by virtue of his long service in the Senate and his mastery of that chamber's politics and procedures, is recognized and respected by savvy Democrats and Republicans as the essential member of the new Congress, is not confused.

Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, is today introducing legislation to uniquivocally "prohibit the use of funds for an escalation of United States forces in Iraq above the numbers existing as of January 9, 2007."

Kennedy voted against authorizing President Bush to invade Iraq and he has been a consistent critic of the war. But this targeted piece of legislation specifically addresses the "surge" being proposed by the president.

Even more importantly, Kennedy's bill reasserts the role of Congress in a time of war. The Constitution allows the president to serve as commander-in-chief and affords him reasonable war-making powers in that role. But it reserves for Congress the power of the purse, and the founders were clear in their believe that the House and Senate should use that power to constrain a president who is waging war without reason or sound strategies.

The Congress has frequently used the power of the purse to control presidential war-making. Kennedy points to examples from the Vietnam era, but there are also examples from just the past quarter century of the Congress specifically embracing troops caps in Lebanon, in the European NATO countries and in Colombia. Indeed, as the Center for American Progress notes in a detailed new report, "Congressional Limitations and Requirements for Military Deployments and Funding," the Congress has a rich record of stepping in to prevent presidents from expanding U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts.

Kennedy, who came to the Senate in 1963 recognizes that record, and he embraces its central theme: That the Constitutionally-mandated system of checks and balances requires Congress to be in the thick of decision making with regard to wars and their escalation.

Kennedy's specific message is summed up in the title of the speech the senator is delivinng today at the National Press Club: "Escalation is Not the Answer: Time for Congress to Insist on Real Change in Iraq"

Says Kennedy, "It seems to me that we are at a time of a major escalation into a civil war, that's what the proposal of a surge is really about. This president is going to escalate the American presence and escalate the whole Iraqi war. This is a major mistake and a major blunder. If there's one thing that the election was about last fall was sending a very clear message to Congress and to the president that the American people want accountability. They want a change in direction on Iraq, they want accountability, and they want people to stand up and be counted."

Will other members of the Senate stand up and be counted? And will members of the House do the same?

Pelosi is clearly toying with strategies to challenge the proposed escalation of the war. She's said that Congress must be a part of the discussion about the president's "surge" proposal, while the Senate's Reid remains troublingly vague.

Ultimately, it is Kennedy who has proposed the clearest challenge to the administration. And senators, especially those who recognize the futility of expanding this war, need to join him in saying no to the surge.

"I think it's to try to hold policy makers accountable," Kennedy explained in a discussion with The New York Times regarding his legislation. "The president is the commander in chief. This is George Bush's war. But we have some responsibility in holding him accountable and holding accountable the people that want to continue the war in the way that it is being undertaken at the present time. The American people have expressed a different view and we need accountability."

Here are Kennedy's remarks regarding his bill:

The American people sent a clear message in November that we must change course in Iraq and begin to withdraw our troops, not escalate their presence. The way to start is by acting on the President's new plan. An escalation, whether it is called a surge or any other name, is still an escalation, and I believe it would be an immense new mistake. It would compound the original misguided decision to invade Iraq. We cannot simply speak out against an escalation of troops in Iraq. We must act to prevent it.

Today I am introducing legislation to reclaim the rightful role of Congress and the people's right to a full voice in the President's plan to send more troops to Iraq. My bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation, unless and until Congress approves the President's plan.

My proposal will not diminish our support for the forces we already have in Iraq. We will continue to do everything we can to make sure they have all the support they truly need. Even more important, we will continue to do all we can to bring them safely home. The best immediate way to support our troops is by refusing to inject more and more of them into the cauldron of a civil war that can be resolved only by the people and government of Iraq.

This bill will give all Americans – from Maine to Florida to California to Alaska and Hawaii – an opportunity to hold the President accountable for his actions. The President's speech must be the beginning – not the end – of a new national discussion of our policy in Iraq. Congress must have a genuine debate over the wisdom of the President's plan. Let us hear the arguments for it and against it. Then let us vote on it in the light of day. Let the American people hear – yes or no – where their elected representatives stand on one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Until now, a rubber stamp Republican Congress has refused to hold the White House accountable on Iraq. But the November election has dramatically changed all that. Over the past two years, Democrats reached for their roots as true members of our Party. We listened to the hopes and dreams of everyday Americans. We rejected the politics of fear and division. We embraced a vision of hope and shared purpose. And the American people voted for change.

Many of us felt the authorization to go to war was a grave mistake at the time. I've said that my vote against the war in Iraq is the best vote I've cast in my 44 years in the United States Senate.

But no matter what any of us thought then, the Iraq War resolution is obviously obsolete today. It authorized a war to destroy weapons of mass destruction. But there were no WMDs to destroy. It authorized a war with Saddam Hussein. But today, Saddam is no more. It authorized a war because Saddam was allied with al Qaeda. But there was no alliance.

The mission of our armed forces today in Iraq bears no resemblance whatever to the mission authorized by Congress. President Bush should not be permitted to escalate the war further, and send an even larger number of our troops into harm's way, without a clear and specific new authorization from Congress.

Our history makes clear that a new escalation in our forces will not advance our national security. It will not move Iraq toward self-government, and it will needlessly endanger our troops by injecting more of them into the middle of a civil war.

... Comparisons from history resonate painfully in today's debate on Iraq. In Vietnam, the White House grew increasingly obsessed with victory, and increasingly divorced from the will of the people and any rational policy. The Department of Defense kept assuring us that each new escalation in Vietnam would be the last. Instead, each one led only to the next.

There was no military solution to that war. But we kept trying to find one anyway. In the end, 58,000 Americans died in the search for it.

Echoes of that disaster are all around us today. Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam.

As with Vietnam, the only rational solution to the crisis is political, not military. Injecting more troops into a civil war is not the answer. Our men and women in uniform cannot force the Iraqi people to reconcile their differences.The President may deny the plain truth. But the truth speaks loudly and tragically. Congress must no longer follow him deeper into the quagmire in Iraq.

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John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism has been hailed by authors and historians Gore Vidal,Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn for its meticulous research into theintentions of the founders and embraced by activists for itsgroundbreaking arguments on behalf of presidential accountability.After reviewing recent books on impeachment, Rolling Stone politicalwriter Tim Dickinson, writes in the latest issue of Mother Jones, "JohnNichols' nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic, TheGenius of Impeachment, stands apart. It concerns itself far less withthe particulars of the legal case against Bush and Cheney, and insteadcombines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe "heroic medicine" that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and atwww.amazon.com

Surge Homeward

Peace groups and members of Congress are crafting creative ideas to counter a Commander-in-Chief who misled us into a catastrophic conflict and now proposes to escalate the war in Iraq.

As the President prepares to escalate (aka "surge") the war in Iraq, the new Democratic Congress and peace activists across the nation are searching for the most effective ways to respond to the continuing Madness of King George. Here is a look at what some legislators, former and current military personnel, and peace groups are doing to end a war that has stretched the military to the breaking point, and sacrificed more than three thousand American men and women to what columnist Paul Krugman calls "the quagmire of the vanities."

•Representative John Murtha has already taken a strong stand in announcing that he will oppose funding for any escalation as Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Murtha told Arianna Huffington that "he wants to ‘fence the funding,' denying the president the resources to escalate the war, instead using the money to take care of the soldiers as we bring them home from Iraq…."

Murtha's stance is critical since the rightwing will wrongly spin (as they have post-Vietnam) that opposition to funding a war is tantamount to not supporting the troops. How best to counter the rightwing political blame game will require hard work and courage in the coming weeks and months.

•In addition to Murtha's stance, Representatives such as James McGovern and Dennis Kucinich--now a Presidential candidate--are also focused on using the power of the purse to end this debacle. Kucinich called for the withholding of funds for future troop deployments after the people spoke against the war so clearly on Election Day, and McGovern introduced the End the War in Iraq Act last session "to prohibit the use of funds to deploy United States Armed Forces to Iraq." While many--especially the still delusional neocons--will try to paint this legislation as anti-military, it isn't. It calls for using those funds "for the safe and orderly withdrawal of the Armed Forces from Iraq."

Although Rep. McGovern's bill only had 19 co-sponsors (including Rep. Kucinich) at the end of Congress' last session, more Democrats may be moved to take a stand when the next supplemental funding bill comes up as early as February – especially as they hear from their constituents and peace activists.

•In the Senate, according to the New York Times, Senator Edward Kennedy will introduce legislation on Tuesday that would require the President to obtain new authorization from Congress prior to sending any more troops to Iraq. Kennedy urged a quick vote, saying, "The importance of this legislation is that it will apply now before we could get the escalation." He cited Congressional intervention in both Vietnam and Lebanon in calling for his colleagues to take action to stop any escalation in Iraq. One clear ally of Sen. Kennedy's is Sen. Russ Feingold – who, along with Sen. John Kerry, introduced legislation during the last session of Congress for a withdrawal to be completed by July of this year. Feingold told The Times: "My concern now is that too many Democrats are going to want to play it safe on this issue and not take the strong stand that American people demand."

Appeal for Redress – Navy Petty Officer Jonathan Hutto, spokesman for the extraordinary movement of active military personnel, reservists, and officers (including "a handful of colonels") seeking withdrawal--says that getting Congressional representatives to explicitly take a stand against the occupation is even more pressing than any debate on funding. Hutto believes that the debate must focus on shifting the policy of this government from one of occupation to "withdrawing all troops and bases from Iraq." Any vote to fund the current policy--whether increasing troop levels, or training Iraqi soldiers, or even funding an Iraqi jobs program with no end to the war in sight--supports the principle of occupation, and to Hutto and his fellow-servicemen and women that is simply unacceptable.

"The first priority needs to be to get the leadership in DC to commit to the principle of withdrawal," Hutto says. "Then we can talk about funding needs."

Sen. George McGovern, who recently met with the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) advises that he would continue funding only in the context of moving towards a withdrawal. His book–-co-authored with former history professor and State Department Middle East expert, William R. Polk--outlines a step-by-step, six-month plan for withdrawal to be completed on or before June 30.

McGovern will present his proposal at the CPC's Capitol Hill Public Forum on Iraq this Friday, January 12 at 9:30 A.M. (345 Cannon House Office Building… and word is that new Iraq legislation will come out of this forum). He stresses the need for a massive reconstruction effort led by Iraqis and largely funded by the United States (at a far cheaper cost than maintaining the occupation); a provision for financing law enforcement contingents from other Muslim or Arab countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Indonesia; and reparations to Iraqi civilians for loss of life and property as the British are doing.

"I think [this] is more politically acceptable than simply cutting off funding," McGovern said. "Although, if that's the only thing that will work after trying this more deliberative effort then I would support a funding cutoff. We have to terminate that war in the near term."

Win Without War--a coalition of national organizations advocating for a foreign policy based on international cooperation and enforceable international law – is preparing to join forces with Rep. Murtha in calling for any supplemental to be used only towards a safe and orderly withdrawal. National Director and former Congressman Tom Andrews says, "In response to George Bush's call to escalate the war in Iraq, the message of our campaign will be as simple, direct and as straightforward as possible: NO!" The America Says NO! campaign will utilize local actions, signs, buttons, bumper stickers, flyers, and ads in newspapers and online to communicate this message.

MoveOn is launching an immediate campaign to oppose Bush's escalation and a long-term campaign to force Congress to end the war. It is organizing rallies across the nation, advertising, call-in days, online petitions, and more. Already over 260,000 members have signed MoveOn's petition opposing escalation and made over 8,000 calls to Congress. MoveOn has endorsed the Kennedy bill and – according to Washington Director Tom Matzzie--its message to Democratic leaders is: "Figure it out. Get out of Iraq. All options should be on the table."

Military Families Speak Out--with a membership of over 3,000 military families--is urging citizens to send their Congressional representatives a postcard--"Support Our Troops: De-fund the War!"--to bring the troops home now. And Iraq Veterans Against the War--with members in 41 states, Washington, DC, Canada, and on numerous bases overseas (including Iraq)--is also calling for an end to funding, as well as reparations to Iraqis and full benefits (including mental health) for returning servicemen and women.

Peace Action--with over 28 state affiliates and 100 local chapters across the country--will call on Congress to vote against the supplemental funding bill. But it will also explore with its Congressional allies how the money might be reduced or conditioned. In a statement, Executive Director Kevin Martin said "The question now is, how will the Democratic Congress respond? While they sound skeptical of [Bush's] plan right now, if they refuse to curtail funds in any way and allow Bush to do what he wants, they will become his accomplices in this disastrous war. And the American people will not accept that."

United for Peace and Justice--a coalition of more than 1300 local and national groups--is focused on demonstrating wide antiwar sentiment with March on Washington, DC on January 27 as well as a Congressional Advocacy Day on January 29. UFPJ hopes to have at least one participant from each of the 435 Congressional districts and will "remind Congress why they were elected and demand that they act immediately to end the occupation of Iraq."

While there is still some uncertainty about how to fulfill the mandate of the November election to end this war, peace groups and members of Congress are crafting creative ideas and resolutions to counter a Commander-in-Chief who misled us into a catastrophic conflict and would now recklessly waste more lives and resources in pursuit of his ideological mission and the salvaging of his legacy. It is time to focus on seeking a political resolution, energetic regional diplomacy to contain the civil war, and funding to address this growing humanitarian catastrophe.

And, finally, to find a safe and honorable way home for our troops.

An Israeli Defense of Jimmy Carter

There is an ugly cynicism to the attack on Jimmy Carter that has been launched by Americans who well recognize that the former president's new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, says nothing that has not already been said about the Middle East conflict by Israeli politicians and commentators.

So why is Carter, a longtime friend of Israel and the Jewish people, being smeared as an anti-Semite for suggesting that the occupation by Israeli forces of Palestinian territory inspires troubling comparisons with the apartheid system that white South Africans once imposed on their country's black majority?

One of Israel's most prominent political figures suggests that it has a lot to do with the determination of Carter's critics to allow their emotions to trump the facts.

"The trouble is that their love of Israel distorts their judgment and blinds them from seeing what's in front of them," argues Shulamit Aloni, a veteran of Israel's war of independence who went on to serve in the Knesset and as a minister in several Israeli cabinets. "Israel is an occupying power that for 40 years has been oppressing an indigenous people, which is entitled to a sovereign and independent existence while living in peace with us."

In a defense of Carter penned for the mass-circulation Israeli newspaper Yediot Acharonot, the woman who served as former Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin's education minister wrote that, "Indeed apartheid does exist here."

"The U.S. Jewish establishment's onslaught on former President Jimmy Carter is based on him daring to tell the truth which is known to all: through its army, the government of Israel practises a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies," explains Aloni. "Its army has turned every Palestinian village and town into a fenced-in, or blocked-in, detention camp. All this is done in order to keep an eye on the population's movements and to make its life difficult. Israel even imposes a total curfew whenever the settlers, who have illegally usurped the Palestinians' land, celebrate their holidays or conduct their parades."

Aloni should be reminded that the battering of Carter has as frequently come from non-Jews as Jews in the U.S. But, with that clarification, her message is one that merits serious attention from Americans who are frustrated by this country's inability to engage in a serious discussion about Middle East policy.

This does not mean that everyone must agree with Aloni's every point.

A recipient of the Israel Prize, the highest honor awarded by her country's government, the internationally-respected parliamentarian has long been a critic of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. Some will disregard her remarks for that reason. Others who respect Aloni's history may disagree with her current critique. But no one who has followed Israeli affairs can doubt that she speaks for a meaningful number of her countrymen and women when she defends Carter.

In fact, the website of the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom recently featured a call for visitors to" "Please consider adding your voices to those who are grateful to Jimmy Carter for writing a brave and important book, Peace Not Apartheid. While the media tries to blank him out, and some would cast aspersions at President Carter for being 'anti-Israel,' in fact the book offers much needed wisdom about how to support a just peace in Israel and Palestine."

Aloni and Gush Shalom certainly do not speak for all Israelis. But their response to Carter's book should be instructive for Americans.

It is not necessary to share all of Aloni's views to recognize that the veteran of the Hagana paramilitary organization that fought for Israeli independence has done a service not only to Carter but to all Americans who would like to see this country engage in an honest dialogue about Middle East affairs.

While Israel enjoys a reasonably vibrant debate with regard to how the Jewish state should relate to Palestine, the United States suffers from a crude and dysfunctional discourse about the same question. The attacks on Jimmy Carter highlight just how ugly and dishonest that discourse has become. Perhaps that is why Shulamit Aloni's pointed response to those attacks is so important. It took an Israeli to remind us of how much more realistic the dialogue could -- and should -- be.

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