The Nation

The Puppet Talks Back

The news that the Iraqi government has banned Blackwater USA, the notorious mercenary firm, from operating in the country reveals another of the great fictions promoted by the Bush crowd in the course of this catastrophic war. The notion that Iraq is a sovereign nation in control of its own destiny.

The Bush Administration announced this myth several years ago after Iraqis adopted a Constitution and started electing a government. It was shrewd political propaganda--a reassuring sign of progress--but the claim was not true then or now. Major media and American political leaders, nevertheless, embraced the happy talk and pretended it was real.

(The Nation's own Jeremy Scahill has done pathbreaking reporting on Blackwater: See Bush's Shadow Army and Mercenary Jackpot, among others. Scahill also testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense in May about the impact of private military contractors on the conduct of the war.)

The banning of Blackwater makes it impossible to ignore the fact that Iraq is not in charge of Iraq. We are. Iraq's Interior Ministry announced that authorities have cancelled Blackwater's licence to operate in the country and intend to prosecute the company for a shooting that killed eight Iraqis.

The New York Times account added this disclaimer in the second paragraph:

"But under the rules that govern private security contractors here, the Iraqis do not have the legal authority to do so."

Who says? The occupying Americans. The Coalition Provisional Authority issued a "law" when they supposedly handed over sovereignty to Iraq--Order No. 17--that gave Blackwater and other US contractors immunity from Iraqi law. How clever of the American pro-consul.

The basic reality in wars of occupation--see the history of colonialism--is that a country can never regain true sovereignty so long as the occupying army remains on the scene, able to impose its will by force of arms. That of course is Iraq's situation, no matter what the White House says or Americans wish to believe. Iraq will not become a sovereign nation until the US troops depart. Maybe this why polls show 76 percent of Iraqis want the US out.

The end game for colonialist regimes nearly always started with the imperial power allowing the people to "elect" their own government. But these were typically puppet governments, composed of carefully screened and supposedly safe political figures. More to the point, they remained under the control of the occupying army. People in the Middle East or Africa or Asia understand this distinction because liberation is still fresh in their national history.

So now the US puppet government in Iraq is talking back to its mentor--claiming to have powers the US has not given it. The Americans may not tolerate such uppity behavior. Prosecute Americans for crimes against Iraqi citizens? How dare you. Blackwater could become an interesting problem for the American overseers to resolve. Maybe Washington will decide that Bagdad is not yet ready for sovereignty, after all.

A Pro-Democracy Movement

With the nation's first billion dollar presidential campaign, pay-to-play scandals occurring at breakneck speed (think Jack Abramoff and Norman Hsu), results in elections that are flawed by suppressed votesand machine error(and a War that Stays the Course despite the millions who went to the polls in November 2006 with a demand to end it), the public has had it with politicians who don't listen to them, care about them, or respond to their concerns. This climate of discontent has led to a rethinking among champions of public financing and clean elections about how to channel their efforts into a larger, more holistic pro-democracy movement. The key question for these reformers is this: how do we fashion a movement that taps into voters' frustrations and captures the imagination for a cleaner, more democratic way?

Certainly there is good momentum in this direction. In Congress – where, for example, the entire Alaskan delegation is either under indictment or soon will be and the pressure for constant fundraising is unsustainable – there is a convergence of democratic values and ideals and more pragmatic considerations wrought by fundraising fatigue. ("The result of this nonsense is that almost one-third of a senator's time is spent fundraising," former Democratic Senator Ernest Hollings wrote in a Washington Post op-ed lat year.) There are two excellent bills with impressive co-sponsorship, the Durbin-Specter Fair Elections Now Act (S 1285) and in the House, the Clean Money, Clean Elections Act of 2007 (HR 1614). Both bills would allow candidates who show a qualifying level of support and opt-out of further private contributions to receive public funding. According to Senator Durbin, "Support is increasing for the idea of public financing in fair elections: seventy-four percent of all voters support public financing… 80 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of Republicans, and 78 percent of Independents."

There are also important state battles being waged and won in this arena. The Congressional legislation was modeled on successful public financing systems in Maine, Arizona and North Carolina. Connecticut has a new Clean Elections program and this week a Republican became the first candidate in the state to qualify for public financing in an upcoming special election. Maryland recently passed a public funding bill through its House of Delegates and fell just one vote short in the Senate. In all, seven states and two municipalities currently have publicly financed elections in which large private contributions are replaced by public grants and small donations.

"The environment for public financing is strong," says Nick Nyhart, President and CEO of Public Campaign, "due to both the continuing political scandals and the steady, inexorable rise in the cost of campaigns. There are new state victories ahead and the federal work is moving forward, though we are really only at the beginning of the Congressional fight…. It really seems to me that the key thinking needs to move from policy to strategy and organizing."

Which is why Nyhart and many of his colleagues are working to knit these democracy issues into a larger whole. Nyhart says that focus groups reveal that Americans of diverse economic, racial, and geographic backgrounds share a common, core complaint about politics today: that their representatives don't listen to them and aren't accountable to them. Pro-democracy proponents are finding new ways to frame issues – ranging from the racket of protecting incumbents through gerrymandered redistricting, to unreliable and easily hacked voting machines, to getting people to the polls with Election Day registration rather than suppressing votes through bogus allegations of voter fraud – in a manner that makes those standing in the way of reform pay a political price.

Nyhart likes to draw an analogy with the environmental movement. "In 1964, saying ‘I'm an environmentalist' had no meaning," he says. "Ten years later saying that made a candidate more electable. Right now, saying ‘I'm a pro-democracy' candidate' doesn't mean much. There is no set of issues for the public to relate that statement to. And you can't establish it with a single issue. So organizations are working to find a politically salient group of issues to achieve that kind of impact."

Returning to the example of the environmental movement, one modest proposal is to take a page from the League of Environmental Voters' invention of the "Dirty Dozen." This was an extremely powerful and effective way to identify politicians who stood in the way of bipartisan environmental progress. Many of them were defeated in their re-election bids in the 70's. So how about an Anti-Democracy Eight? Or a Democracy Day á la Earth Day devoted to maximizing voter turnout, making campaigns affordable for ordinary citizens, and producing reliable election results?

Perhaps Democracy Enemy #1 would be Senator Mitch McConnell. (Please offer your nominees for the Anti-Democracy 8 below!) Recently, an ad by Public Campaign Action Fund highlighting Sen. McConnell's favors to political donors was pulled by Insight Communications, a cable system owner. NBC, CBS, ABC and two other cable systems ran the ad after thorough fact-checking. But Insight pulled it without explanation in the 11th hour. Turns out Insight Communications executives – including the corporation's CEO and chief lobbyist – are allies of McConnell. After receiving 6,000 petitions in one day questioning Insight's motivations and demanding the ad run, the company reversed its decision. In trying to squash free speech, Insight proved the very point the ad raised about the cozy relationship between McConnell and his donors. Adding to the irony is that the ad concerns an $8.3 million McConnell earmark to a firm with ties to the senator. The contract paid the firm to provide MP-3 players to tribesmen in Afghanistan that played – of all things – pre-recorded messages promoting democracy!

There are plenty of good activists and groups who have crafted a broad pro-democracy agenda in recent years. In March, the New Democracy Project, Demos, The Nation, and the Brennan Center for Justice released The Democracy Protection Act – 40 Ways Toward a More Perfect Union. The measures suggested in the report – building on the policies crafted by a score of good groups – challenged a system we described this way: "We have too much money and too few voters in our electoral process. Too much corruption. Too high barriers blocking access to civil justice. Too much contempt for the Rule of Law." We looked at things like national voting standards, paper trails, secure voting machines, Election Day registration, voter suppression and intimidation, lobbying laws, public campaign funding, and free air time for qualifying candidates.

But the challenge now – at this moment when democracy's image has been so tarnished by scandal, big bucks, and a shameful war falsely waged in its name – is to move beyond the policy suggestions to build something greater than the sum of its parts. Such a movement will go a long way toward retrieving democracy and restoring its promise.

The Lies of Alan Greenspan

Alan Greenspan has come back from the tomb of history to correct the record. He did not make any mistakes in his eighteen-year tenure as Federal Reserve chairman. He did not endorse the regressive Bush tax cuts of 2001 that pumped up the federal deficits and aggravated inequalities. He did not cause the housing bubble that is now in collapse. He did not ignore the stock market bubble that subsequently melted away and cost investors $6 trillion. He did not say the Iraq War is "largely about oil."

Check the record. These are all lies.

Greenspan's testimony endorsing the Bush tax cuts was extremely influential but now he wants to run away from it.  

In the instance of Iraq, Greenspan is actually correcting his own memoir, The Age of Turbulence, which just came out. This weekend, newspapers reported provocative snippets from the book, including this: "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what every everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."

Wow, talk about your "inconvenient truth." Greenspan was blithely acknowledging what official Washington has always denied and the news media faithfully ignored. "Blood for oil." No, no, no, that's not what he meant, Greenspan corrected in a follow-up interview. [Bob Woodward in Monday's Washington Post] He was only saying that "taking out Saddam was essential" for "oil security" and the global economy.

Are you confused? Welcome to the world of slippery truth Greenspan has always lived in. He was the Maestro, as Bob Woodward's loving portrait dubbed him. Wall Street loved the Chairman best because the traders and bankers knew he was always on their side and would come to their rescue. The major news media treated him like an Old Testament prophet. Whatever the chairman said was carved on stone tablets, even when it didn't make any sense, as it often didn't.

Some of us who followed his tracks more closely, were not so kind. Harry Reid, now the Democratic Senate leader, said Greenspan was "one of the biggest political hacks in Washington." Amen. I called him "the one-eyed chairman" who could always spot reasons to stomp on the real economy of work and production, but was utterly blind to the destructive chaos in the financial system. No matter. The adoration of him was nearly universal.

Until now. The economic consequences of his rule are accumulating and even the dullest financial reporters are stumbling on crumbs of truth about Greenspan's legendary reign. It sowed profound and dangerous imbalances in the US economy. That's what happens when government power tips the balance in favor of capital over labor, favoring super-rich over middle class and poor, then holds it there for nearly a generation.

Things get out of whack and now the country is paying big time. A pity reporters and politicians didn't have the nerve to ask these questions when Greenspan was in power.

He retired only a year ago, but is already trying to revise the history. To explain away blunders that are now a financial crisis facing his successor. To rearrange the facts in exculpatory ways. To deny his right-wing ideological bias and his raw partisanship in behalf of the Bush Republicans.

The man is shrewd. He can see the conservative era he celebrated and helped to impose upon the American economy is in utter ruin. He is trying to get some distance from it before the blood splashes all over his reputation. Of course, he also came back to cash in--an $8 million advance for a book that is sure to be a huge bestseller. I don't want to be unkind, but Greenspan could have avoided all the embarrassing questions if his book was posthumous.

I haven't the read it yet. I have a hunch I am not going to like it.

Senate Blocks Olson as AG; President Picks Ex-Judge

When the White House floated the name of former Solicitor General Ted Olson as the president's preferred replacement for scandal-plagued Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, it was a poke in the eye to responsible members the Senate Judiciary Committee who were pressing for a nominee capable of rebuilding the Justice Department Gonzales had effectively destroyed.

Olson might have been an abler lawyer than the outgoing Attorney General. But the man who led the scheming to get the Supreme Court to prevent an honest recount of Florida presidential votes in 2000 is, if anything, more fiercely partisan and ideologically driven than Gonzales.

With the Justice Department in crisis as a result of instability caused by the politically-motivated firings of key U.S. attorneys, resignations of top-level managers, an exodus of career lawyers and revelations about crude political meddling with the mission of the civil rights division, the idea of putting a committed ideologue like Olson in charge was not merely offensive but frightening to Democratic and Republican senators who take seriously their oversight role.

Members of the Judiciary Committee made it clear, publicly and privately, that Olson would face a fight. Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, began to define the terms of what would have been the first serious confirmation battle of the Bush presidency -- with the word "serious" being defined not by the passions involved but the prospect that the White House might not prevail.

Leahy and other key Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, particularly New York's Chuck Schumer, believed they could defeat Olson's nomination at the committee level with a coalition of Democrats and Republicans who are genuinely worried about the crisis at Judiciary, such as Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter. Even if the nomination got out of committee on a tie vote, Schumer believed that Republicans who are worried about getting reelected in 2008, such as Maine's Susan Collins and Minnesota's Norm Coleman, would join Democrats in rejecting Olson.

After surveying the chamber, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced last week that Olsen would not be confirmed.

The Republican National Committee issued statements grumbling about how: "Dems Try To Choose Bush's Attorney General." Right-wing talk radio geared up for a fight.

But the White House was looking at the same Senate as Reid. And late last week, it appears, the president and his aides blinked.

Olson's name was put back in the drawer. Instead, Bush has nominated former Federal Judge Michael B. Mukasey, a veteran prosecutor from New York who has close ties to former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani but few links to the Bush White House, as third attorney general.

Mukasey is no liberal. He should tough questioning by the Senate -- especially with regard to his past cheerleading for the Patriot Act. But he will also be remembered as the jurist who in 2003 agreed with lawyers for Jose Padilla that an appeal in the case of the accused terrorist could examine the legality of Bush's designation of Padilla as an enemy combatant.

That show of independence, while it came in the context of an overall record of relatively conservative decisions in cases involving Constitutional questions, will sit well with moderate senators who are concerned that the next Attorney General be a competent lawyer rather than a presidential acolyte or an ideological activist.

As Schumer said Sunday, "While he is certainly conservative, Judge Mukasey seems to be the kind of nominee who would put rule of law first and show independence from the White House, our most important criteria. For sure we'd want to ascertain his approach on such important and sensitive issues as wiretapping and the appointment of U.S. attorneys, but he's a lot better than some of the other names mentioned and he has the potential to become a consensus nominee."

Translation: Mukasey's not a perfect pick, and perhaps not even an acceptable selection. But he is a better nominee than Ted Olson, if only because his background suggests that he might take seriously the fundamental task of restoring the Department of Justice.

So there will be no nomination of Olson, and no formal vote by the Judiciary Committee or the full Senate to confirm the most ardent champion of the right-wing Federalist Society's campaign to warp the federal judiciary and the nation's law-enforcement apparatus.

But no one should mistake what has happened: Olson has been blocked by the Senate. That is good news for the Justice Department, for the rule of law and for the Republic. It is, as well, a welcome indication that the system of checks and balances might yet be restored to a proper equilibrium. Hopefully, that restoration will continue with a thorough examination of Mukasey's nomination that will recognize his superiority to Olson while still seeking assurances of his commitment both to cleaning up the mess made by Alberto Gonzales and, most importantly, standing up where necessary to the White House's assaults on the Justice Department and the rule of law.


John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines 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.'"

A Constitution to "Chain the Dogs of War"

Two-hundred and twenty years ago this week, the patriots who had stuck through the long process of drafting a Constitution for the new United States finally approved the document. The primary purpose of their creation was, in the language of their time, to "chain the dogs of war."

The American colonies has suffered the cruel fates of wars plotted and pursued by the royal families of distant Europe, and they set about to assure that the nation they had freed from the grip of British imperialism would not, itself, be subjected to the imperial whims of presidents who might someday imagine themselves to be kings.

"The executive should be able to repel and not to commence war," explained Roger Sherman, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from Connecticut, who moved to make clear the intent of the founders that nothing in their exposition of the powers of the executive branch should be conceived as authorizing the president to "make war." An executive could assume the mantle of commander-in-chief only when it was necessary to defend the country; never to wage kingly wars of whim.

Sherman's resolution was approved overwhelmingly by the Philadelphia convention that finished its work September 17, 1787.

George Mason, the Virginia delegate who was the strongest advocate for restraint on the executive, summed up the sentiments of the delegates when he said: "I am for clogging rather than facilitating war."

So was the Constitution defined. Indeed, in arguing for its ratification, Pennsylvania delegate James Wilson explained, "This system will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress; for the important part in declaring war is vested in the legislature at large."

The procedures are clearly outlined. Wars must be declared by the houses of Congress. And the power to continue any war is rested entirely in the funding authority that is given Congress. The president does not enjoy the privilege of declaring or maintaining a war. He is merely a manager of military affairs in a time of conflict; and even in that he is required to defer on matters of consequence to the Congress.

This, we know, to be the law of the land.

Yet, as we mark the 220th anniversary of the Constitution, more than 160,000 young Americans are mired in the quagmire of an undeclared war in Iraq. More than 3,700 of them have died already, and the toll expands on a daily basis – as does the rate at which innocent Iraqis are killed, maimed and rendered homeless. More than $200 million is extracted from the federal treasury each day to pay for this war, despite the fact that it is, by any Constitutional standard, entirely illegitimate.

The founders would not question for a moment that the Congress has the authority to use the power of the purse to end this war. Indeed, they would argue today as they did in their time, that a failure to do so would imperil the Republic.

But the founders would be even more worried about the precedent set by the current president's seizure of ungranted authority for warmaking and so much else, and they would remind us, as George Mason did, that with regard to the Constitution: "No point is of more importance than that the right of impeachment should be continued."

The voters dealt with last fall with the Republican Congress that had collaborated with Bush to thwart the rule of law. The unfortunate reality of the moment is that a Democratic Congress that was elected to restore a measure of balance to the federal stage has responded to necessity with caution. But that does not change the eternal reality of the Republic, which is that this "opposition" Congress has a simple, basic, yet essential Constitutional duty. Members of the House and Senate must impeach and try a president who is assaulting the most basic precepts of the American experiment. Anything less is a mockery of the document they swear an oath to defend – and an invitation to this and future presidents to further unchain the dogs of war that the founders struggled so mightily to contain.


John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines 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.'"

Greenspan, Iraq & Oil

For the last few years, the Beltway punditocracy and think-tank-ocracy have blasted antiwar protesters for their "No Blood for Oil" banners, buttons and signs. Simplistic, if not utterly simpleminded, they rail. Will those who've policed what is permissible in our debates about the reasons why Bush & Co. launched this disastrous war now target their venomous attacks on former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan? They now have reason to--but don't hold your breath. According to Bob Woodward's Washington Post cover story about Greenspan's forthcoming memoir, to be published this Monday, the former Fed Chair writes: " I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."

Beware of Fat People

There is no doubt that there is plenty to be concerned about when it comes to our unhealthy diets. Yes, a number of us eat too much food, especially the worst possible kind. Why make do with one hamburger patty, when you can have two, and please, please don't forget the bacon, mayo, or oodles of melted cheese. All of it over-processed and drowning in saturated fat. Yummy!

But it's equally true that the shock/outrage/concern over the "obesity epidemic" -- especially as it gets played out in the MSM -- is often a flimsy pretext to beat up on people who aren't thin, and vent the fat-phobia of our inner anorexic/bulemic, much of it masquerading as science.

A great example is the absurd claim made recently in New England Journal of Medicine that fat is similar to a contagious virus "spread from person to person like a fashion or a germ," especially among friends. So my chance of becoming obese is 57 percent higher if my pal gains a lot of weight over a certain period of time -- even if she/he lives on the other side of the country, or even the world.

Talk about a good reason to stay away from fatties...

The argument just didn't sound right to me when I first heard it -- and certainly didn't co-relate to any reality I could detect in my varied body-shape/weight circle of friends. So I was delighted to read this blistering take-down in TCS Daily penned by Jonathan Robison, who exposes the research for what it is: junk science that can't tell the difference between cause and corelation. Here's an especially damning bit:

"Perhaps most disturbing is that, in spite of the fact that the vast majority of media images relating to the article were pictures of women, it turns out that the supposed impact of a friend's obesity on a friend's obesity (the strongest association of the BMI's of all those observed) was only significant when both friends were male.

Have the researchers not heard that, aside from not being a good predictor or mortality or morbidity in males or females, use of the BMI is particularly problematic with males because it does not distinguish between muscle and fat and thus mislabels significant numbers of men as being overweight and obese when they are not?"

Robison's concerns echoes an interview I did a couple of years ago with Paul Campos, the author of The Obesity Wars, who rightly argues against the over-emphasis on weight as a marker of health:

"One is that for the vast majority of people, weight simply isn't going to tell you anything relevant about their health in and of itself. And second that among those groups that do show some meaningful correlations with health, we need to unpack the extent to which the weight is causal or merely a marker for other things, such as poor nutrition, socio-economic status, weight cycling brought on by dieting etc."

In any case, whether we're obese or anorexic, the basic underlying condition is an unhealthy, pathological relationship to food, or what Campos describes as "a form of eating-disordered thinking." And both the fast-food and diet industries -- which is once again obsessed with size at the expense of nutrition -- are equally an expression of our sick culture.

The Ambitious Delusions of George Bush and David Petraeus

We now learn that General David Petraeus fancies himself a Dwight Eisenhower for the 21st century.

According to a report in London's Independent newspaper by the reliable Middle East observer Patrick Cockburn, the U.S. military viceroy in Iraq would like very much to return from his mission and -- like the Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II and of North Atlantic Treaty Organization in its aftermath -- mount a bid for the White House.

Petraeus has apparently been so open in expressing his "long-term interest in running for the US presidency" that Sabah Khadim, a former senior adviser at Iraq's Interior Ministry who worked closely with the general in Baghdad, recalls, "I asked him if he was planning to run in 2008 and he said, 'No, that would be too soon'."

Such are the political calculations of the man whose embrace of President Bush's war has become so complete that he and his aides have radically altered the manner in which statistics are gathered on violence in Iraq in order to foster the fantasy that the fight has taken a turn for the better.

"General Petraeus has a reputation in the US Army for being a man of great ambition. If he succeeds in reversing America's apparent failure in Iraq, he would be a natural candidate for the White House in the presidential election in 2012," explains Cockburn. "His able defense of the 'surge' in US troop numbers in Iraq as a success before Congress this week has made him the best-known soldier in America. An articulate, intelligent and energetic man, he has always shown skill in managing the media."

The problem, of course, is that Petraeus's "open interest in the presidency" might, Cockburn suggests, "lead critics to suggest that his own political ambitions have influenced him in putting an optimistic gloss on the US military position in Iraq "

It is Petraeus's willingness to apply the optimistic gloss that marks him as a worthy successor to George Bush, who in Thursday night speech to the nation pronounced himself well and truly pleased with his general's recitation of the administration's talking points. Based on general's testimony, Bush is claiming "success in meeting (our) objectives."

The president's "return on success" is an empty promise that a small number of troops already scheduled for withdrawal from Iraq may, in fact, be withdrawn. At the same time, however, Bush acknowledges that this "success will require U.S. political, economic, and security engagement that extends beyond my Presidency."

Translation: For all the window-dressing talk about drawing down troop levels, Bush continues to peddle the " stay-the-course" message that has been his theme since the occupation of oil-rich Iraq went awry more than four years ago. And, once more, the president is asking Congress to provide him with more money for more war.

All that has changed is that the president now has a medal-bejeweled general who is willing to gloss over the failure the naked emperor so desperately seeks to define as "success."

Bush and Petraeus have joined their ambitions -- one for a presidency that is not summed up by the word "failed," one for a presidency of his own.

Ambition is, unfortunately, the wet nurse of delusion -- a delusion so severe that Bush has seldom hesitated to compare his meandering "war on terror" with the fight against fascism.

For their own reasons, the president and Petraeus feel they can afford to maintain the war until they figure out how to rearrange the letters of the word "quagmire" to spell "victory."

That will not happen. Bush's will be a failed presidency. And Petraeus's will be not be a presidency at all.

Unfortunately, on the way to their shared fate, the commander-in-chief and his general will preside over thousands of additional American deaths, tens of thousands of additional Iraqi deaths, the continued collapse of this country's global reputation and the emptying from our treasury of the resources that might have made America and the world more secure, more functional and more humane.

Petraeus may fancy himself a latter-day Eisenhower. But he has shown none of the wisdom of the man who, recognizing the folly of turning the Cold War into a hot fight, campaigned for the presidency in 1952 on a promise to end the bloodshed on the Korean Peninsula -- and, when elected, did so quickly and honorably.

To those who suggested in 1953 that it was necessary to wage an endless ground and air war against Chinese communists who were portrayed as being every bit as diabolical as the targets of the "war on terror," Eisenhower responded, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. [...] This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron."

Six years later, as he was finishing a presidency that had, for the most part, maintained the peace, Eisenhower counseled against paying too much heed to the pleading of generals and politicians for new fights.

"I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments," Ike told British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. "Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it."

And where do the people stand after weeks of propagandizing by the president and his Petraeus with regard to the war to which they have attached their ambitions?

A new poll of Iraqis, conducted by ABC News, Britain's BBC, and Japan's public broadcaster NHK, finds that 70 percent of those surveyed say they believe security has worsened in regions where the Bush/Petraeus surge has been focused. Another 11 percent of the people in whose name Bush claims the occupation must continue say the buildup has had no effect.

A new poll of Americans, conducted by the Gallup organization just prior to Petraeus's testimony, 58 percent rated the surge a failure. Perhaps more significantly, at least for the general's ambitions, 59 percent predicted that history would judge the whole of Bush's preemptive war with Iraq to have been a failure.

That is a seven percent increase from a year ago, when voters were preparing to reject the war and the war president's party at the polls. And while the testimony of a general and the preaching of a president may move some poll numbers temporarily, their empty words cannot change the reality that Eisenhower was right about such endeavors. "All of us have heard this term 'preventative war' since the earliest days of Hitler. I recall that is about the first time I heard it," the 34th president told a press conference in 1953. "In this day and time... I don't believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn't even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing."

Those are the words of a general who had the wisdom required to assume the presidency, and of a president who had the wisdom to serve as commander-in-chief. It is a deficit of such wisdom that disqualifies both David Petraeus and George Bush, and that ill serves both Iraq and America.


John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines 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.'"

A War We Just Might Lose

Written by Matthew Blake:

Back in July, support for the war in Iraq was at an all-time low, with prominent Republican Senators like Richard Lugar of Indiana and Pete Domenici of New Mexico advocating the need for an exit strategy. But then, as the New York Times notes Thursday, the White House unveiled a new campaign to sell the surge.

Key enlistees in this PR effort were Brookings Institution Senior Fellows Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack. Their July 30 New York Times op-ed ("A War We Just Might Win") and endless parade of subsequent public appearances supposedly lent credibility to the idea that US military commander David Petraeus (who invited his old Princeton buddy O'Hanlon over for a visit) was winning over Iraqis, leading to region-by-region improvements and an overall decrease in violence.

On Thursday, O'Hanlon and Pollack assembled at the National Press Club, along with four other Brookings colleagues, to evaluate the surge in the wake of Petraeus' and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker's testimony on Capitol Hill.

The panel reached a consensus that a real change in Iraq policy will only come with a new president. They also agreed--O'Hanlon and Pollack included--that the stated goal of the surge--to create space for political reconciliation--had not been achieved. Yet O'Hanlon and Pollack continued to put a positive spin on the war while their colleagues offered damning indictments.

O'Hanlon and Pollack both spoke of a "Sunni awakening" and credited the US military with gains in specific provinces such as Anbar and Mosul. "Petraeus and Crocker are pragmatic," O'Hanlon said. "They adopted beyond the counterinsurgency manual."

But their Brookings colleagues pointed out that the official name of the surge is the Baghdad Security Plan and Baghdad is neither secured as a city or a site for the national government. "The surge is not meeting its stated goals of buying time for Iraqi leaders to reach political reconciliation," said Brookings Senior Fellow Philip Gordon.

And Gordon and his colleagues directly differed with O'Hanlon and Pollack on the question of whether the surge should be given more time to work.

"The bar for success in Iraq is falling so quickly that we better duck before it hits us on the head," Gordon said. "Whatever happened to a model democracy?"

Brookings Middle East policy expert Bruce Reidel said the opportunity costs in Iraq are too great to stay. "You cannot judge this policy alone," he said. "You put forces in some place and you can't put them somewhere else."

Brookings Senior Fellow Susan Rice, a foreign policy advisor to Senator Barack Obama, spoke of a "fundamental disconnect between our military strategy and the realities on the ground."

"There is an insurgency and a raging civil war," she said. "The surge is a counterinsurgency tactic not relevant to dealing with the civil war."

And moderator Carlos Pascual ended the session noting, "Getting a country in the middle of a war to politically fix themselves is a departure from any historical precedent."

Before the war, Brookings played a major role in drumming up support for the invasion among Democrats. Since then, most of its foreign policy, as evidenced by Thursday's event, have become war opponents. We'll see if these dissenting colleagues get to join O'Hanlon and Pollack on the talk show circuit.