Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Wrong about president

In regard to Peggy Fry’s letter “Bush a good president”: (10/5): I’m not a Democrat or Republican, but I have to ask, what planet is she from?

Does she not watch the news or read the papers? Does she not have a clue about what is going on in this country and abroad? And it all started six years ago, when George W. Bush was put in office.

As for me, I used to be a middle-class American. Now I’m just plain poor.

I’m sick of being lied to by this administration that is supposed to be so moral.
I’m tired of living from paycheck to paycheck.

I’m tired of paying high health insurance. And I’m definitely tired of paying high gas prices.
As for Fry, she has the right to her opinion. But she needs to come back to earth!

Sherry GalsterNevada, Mo.

Read full post and comments:
"Wrong about president" >>

Wounded state lawmaker flies home from Iraq

Doctors have not decided whether to remove the bullet he received from sniper fire in Iraq.

The Kansas City Star

A Missouri state representative who was wounded in Iraq arrived at Kansas City International Airport on Tuesday evening, hours after surprising his family with news of his return.
“I’m just really happy to be home right now,” said a visibly fatigued Jason Brown, an Army Reserve staff sergeant from Platte City.

Brown, 36, said doctors had not decided whether to remove the bullet in his left lung, the result of sniper fire Thursday in Baghdad. Doctors were amazed, Brown said, that the lung did not collapse.

“I’m sore and I’m tired and I’m really happy to be standing,” said Brown, who was able to walk off the plane.

He is on a 30-day convalescent leave and will return to Iraq for “light duty.”

“You should go back and do your job,” said Brown, who runs a gun turret for the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion of Utica, N.Y.

Brown said a fellow soldier had been shot in the shoulder during the incident but was doing OK. Brown would not identify his comrade nor discuss the incident further, saying he would issue a news release in the coming days.

A family spokesman, George McClintock, said last week that Brown was wearing a bulletproof flak jacket but may have been shot in an area that was unprotected.

Dozens of friends, family and media assembled to greet Brown. Before giving interviews, he threw down his bag and knelt to hug his daughter, Alayna, 8, and son, Caleb, 4. His wife, Rachelle, had no words at first — only a long-awaited hug and kiss.

“I’m overcome with emotions,” Rachelle Brown said later. “I can’t even explain it.”
Rachelle Brown said she had received several phone calls and e-mails from her husband since he was injured. Before his plane landed, however, she didn’t know whether he had undergone surgery.

She said she found out Tuesday afternoon he was coming home.

Jason Brown said doctors had kept him in Baghdad until he left Sunday for a series of flights to Kansas City.

Brown, a Republican, is seeking re-election in the 30th House District. He was elected to the General Assembly in 2002 and has served from abroad since his April deployment to Iraq for a yearlong tour.

Brown joined the military in 1989. In 2000, he served in Bosnia-Herzegovina on a peacekeeping mission.

His unit works to help communities establish government and provide basic services. Among the unit’s duties was to help manage infrastructure projects and distribute water, food, medical supplies and clothing, he wrote in an earlier news release.

In the release, Brown said his area of service — east of the Tigris River in Baghdad — has had a high level of insurgent activity that began before his unit started to operate there.

Brown’s opponent is Democrat Jared Welch, who is a member of the Missouri Air National Guard and has served since 1995. Currently, he serves in the judge advocate general corps.
The well-wishers included Platte County Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight; Rep. Susan Phillips, who serves southern Platte County; and Brown’s fellow church members, including Cheryl and Dave Clark of Platte City. Cheryl Clark had coordinated First Christian Church’s efforts to bring meals to the family and had expected Rachelle to travel to meet Jason for surgery in Germany.

The Clarks considered Brown’s condition an answered prayer.

Said Cheryl Clark, “Amazing.”

Read full post and comments:
"Wounded state lawmaker flies home from Iraq" >>

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Let's admit we made a mess and clean it up

By GEORGE STEGER Midwest Voices

“To cut and run or not to cut and run.” That is the question as the November elections bear down upon us. But is it really a valid question? Or just another throwaway slogan designed to relieve voters of the necessity to think?

It’s about as helpful as that other slogan constantly foisted upon us: “Stay the course.” What course? Is there a plan at all? We’ve been given one snow job after the other in this fruitless and counterproductive war in Iraq. Each one has simply made the situation worse there.

The big question as we approach November is not whether we should stay or not; it’s how we can best fix the ever-expanding mess we’ve made in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. Even the war we fight legitimately in Afghanistan has become more difficult and costly.

So what is the fix? That’s the real question before the voters. Neither U.S. political party has dared to look much beyond the status quo. Here’s a potential “new course,” rough and painful, but at least a place to begin:

•Ask the Iraqi government to ask us formally to leave (or ask them to call a referendum and let Iraqi voters vote us out — they most certainly would).

•Set a date for departure with the Iraqi government — within a year.

•Accede to the partitioning of the country into its native Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parts.

•Enlist United Nations and NATO support for the employment of international forces, including some from the Middle East, to police the temporary partition.

•Prepare a “Marshall Plan” kind of program aimed at the economic recovery of Iraq, with the Group of Seven world’s richest nations providing the loans.

•Initiate a U.S-led program of trade engagement and foreign direct investment in Iraq and in other key Muslim regions in the Mideast, such as Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Jordan, with the aim of creating a free-market zone there.

•Though we would remain a staunch ally of Israel, make clear that U.S. foreign policy is not a mirror image of the Israeli one and that future U.S. policy in the Middle East will no longer rubber-stamp violence as a solution for every Arab-Israeli confrontation.

It should be clear to every American by now that what we have been witnessing in Iraq for the past three years is a failed strategy. We bought into it because we were afraid. As the election approaches, the same tocsin of fear begins to sound, and we are being urged again to “stay the course” of violence that has led us so far only toward the prospect of more violence and wider conflict.

There is a saying in some Army circles these days “to those who have a big and fancy hammer, everything looks like a nail.” That’s how we got into Iraq, when other, more patient solutions would have served us better. We have unprecedented military power, and our armed forces are proud and dedicated and well-trained. But force has just not worked in Iraq; the more we use, the worse it gets.

So, as in Vietnam, our troops’ sacrifices are appearing more and more to be in vain. Even Charles Krauthammer, that arch neoconservative himself, admitted in a column a few weeks ago that the government of Iraq is failing and if it fails, we will not win in Iraq. If that is true, then, as Krauthammer suggested, “it is unconscionable to make one more American soldier die for a cause that cannot be salvaged.”

Read full post and comments:
"Let's admit we made a mess and clean it up" >>

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Guantanamo defense lawyer forced to retire by Navy

By Carol Rosenberg

McClatchy Newspapers

NEWARK, N.J. - The Navy lawyer who took the Guantanamo case of Osama bin Laden's driver to the U.S. Supreme Court - and won - has been passed over for promotion by the Pentagon and must soon leave the military.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, 44, said last week he received word that he had been denied a promotion to full-blown Navy commander this summer - "about two weeks after" the Supreme Court sided against the White House and with his client, a Yemeni captive at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.

Under the military's "up or out" promotion system, Swift will retire in March or April, closing out a 20-year career of military service.

A Pentagon appointee, Swift embraced the alleged al-Qaida's sympathizer's defense with a classic defense lawyer's zeal - casting his captive client as an innocent victim in the dungeon of King George, a startling analogy for the attorney whose commander-in-chief is President George Bush.

He wore Navy whites to his client's war-crimes tribunal at Guantanamo, dress blues to challenge the administration on the steps of the Supreme Court and turned up last week at a symposium at Seton Hall Law School in more sober, workaday khakis.

"It was a pleasure to serve," said Swift, who added that he would defend Salim Hamdan all over again, even if he knew he would have to leave the Navy earlier than he wanted.

"All I ever wanted was to make a difference - and in that sense I think my career and personal satisfaction has been beyond my dreams," he said.

Swift, a University of Seattle Law School graduate, also said he will continue to defend Hamdan as a civilian. The Seattle law firm of Perkins Coie, which provided pro bono legal work in Hamdan's habeas corpus petition, has agreed to support Swift's defense of Hamdan in civilian life, he said.

Hamdan, 36, who has only a fourth-grade education, was captured along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan while fleeing the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, launched in reprisal for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He admits to working as bin Laden's $200-a-month driver on a Kandahar farm, but said he never joined al-Qaida and never fought anyone.

Still at Guantanamo as an "enemy combatant," Hamdan halted his war-crimes trial by challenging the format's constitutionality through civilian courts. The justices ruled in June that President Bush overstepped his constitutional authority by creating ad hoc military tribunals for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, sending the Pentagon back to the drawing board for the trials.

In the end, it developed a system very similar to those struck down, setting the stage for a likely new challenge this session.

In the opinion of Washington, D.C., attorney Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, Swift was "a no-brainer for promotion," given his devotion to the Navy, the law and his client.

But, he said, Swift is part of a long line of Navy defense lawyers "of tremendous distinction" who were not made full commander and "had their careers terminated prematurely."

"He brought real credit to the Navy," said Fidell. "It's too bad that it's unrequited love."

In June, the prestigious National Law Journal listed Swift among the nation's top 100 lawyers, with such legal luminaries as former Bush administration Solicitor General Theodore Olson, 66; Stanford Law constitutional law expert Kathleen Sullivan, 50, and former Bush campaign recount attorney Fred H. Bartlit, 73.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey D. Gordon, Pentagon spokesman on Guantanamo topics, did not respond to a query about the up-or-out system by which Navy lieutenant commanders are retired if they don't get promoted.

Perhaps ironically, one of Swift's first challenges on behalf of Hamdan as a civilian will be over whether he has the right to represent him in federal court. Under legislation approved by the House and Senate last month, Guantanamo detainees lose their right to file traditional habeas corpus petitions.

Swift last saw his controversial client last month at Guantanamo. "He's depressed," the lawyer said.

Swift said the Yemeni is now held in "Tango Block" at the U.S. detention center, in the company of ethnic Muslim Uighurs, who await resettlement elsewhere rather than repatriation to their native China.

"He now has Chinese roommates," meaning cellblock neighbors, said Swift, "which he's not particularly thrilled about."

Swift's supervisor, the Pentagon's chief defense counsel for Military Commissions, said the career Navy officer had served with distinction.

"Charlie has obviously done an exceptional job, a really extraordinary job," said Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan, a former American Civil Liberties Union attorney, calling it "quite a coincidence" that the Navy promotion board passed on promoting Swift "within two weeks of the Supreme Court opinion."

Read full post and comments:
"Guantanamo defense lawyer forced to retire by Navy" >>

Start Making Sense


Published: October 8, 2006

THE American public loathes the bickering, deadlocked 109th Congress. Its approval rating was a subterranean 25 percent in September’s New York Times/CBS poll. That makes this year’s Democratic strategy simple: make sure the public knows exactly who’s in charge of this wretched assemblage. Not a speech should go by without the phrase “Republican Congress” being repeated at least a dozen times. Two dozen would be even better.

So that’s that. But Democrats also have an opportunity to do something more constructive in this fall’s campaign: they should package a common-sense foreign policy so that it sounds like the common sense it is.

That means taking seriously the idea that our national interest is served by easing tensions and reducing hatred of the United States. This in turn means remaking the United States military so it can fight insurgencies and conduct peacekeeping missions more effectively; making serious use of multilateral institutions instead of deriding them; once again acting as an honest broker in the Middle East; and using economic engagement to help bring the Muslim world into the global community.

Democrats need to learn how to make this case convincingly, because it’s the only way we’re going to win the war against militant Islamic jihadism. It might help the party win an election or two as well.

— KEVIN DRUM, writer of the blog “Political Animal.”

Read full post and comments:
"Start Making Sense" >>