House Committee to Look Into Lynch, Tillman Incidents

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announce that they are going to investigate two high-profile events in recent US military history.  Those two events: the friendly-fire death of US Army Ranger and former NFL star Cpl. Pat Tillman and the rescue of Pvt. Jennifer Lynch.  In Tillman's case,  there are clear signs of a serious cover-up over the circumstances of his death, and Lynch's story which was spread far and wide appears to be one part fairy tale, one part exploitative propaganda.  It'll be the committees job to investigate misbehavior and see how high up in the chain of command, military and civilian, it went.  We'll be following this story closely at NDNblog, as we continue to look at the failures of the period of conservative ascendency. 

Bush Administration Can't Find A General to be War Czar

According to the WAPO, the Bush Administration has approached at least three retired four-star generals to ask them if they would accept a War Czar position giving them strategic oversight over the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  All of them have said no."  Marine General (Ret.) John J. "Jack" Sheehan put it best:

The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," said retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, a former top NATO commander who was among those rejecting the job. Sheehan said he believes that Vice President Cheney and his hawkish allies remain more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq. "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks,' " he said.

And Gen. Sheehan works for Bechtel right now on "developing oil projects in the Middle East."  When the was profiteers want out, maybe it's time to take a second look...

The new Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell is having similar problems:

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has been unable to find a deputy acceptable to the White House during his first six weeks in office.

Several candidates approached by McConnell either turned down the job or were rejected by the White House, according to current and former administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to discuss the matter.

The position of deputy director of national intelligence has been vacant since May, when Gen. Michael V. Hayden left to become the director of the CIA. Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr., who was appointed to replace Hayden, had to vacate the post in January because regulations limit how long a person can hold the position without Senate confirmation.

While the matter lingers on, McConnell said this week, he has been working 18-hour days "at least six days a week" to handle the crush of work.

The general unwillingness on the part of qualified people to join the Bush Administration is threatening the operations of our government, particularly in areas critical to national security.  The end of the Bush years can't come quick enough. members talk to Presidential candidates about Iraq

Yesterday, in the first of a series of Virtual Town Halls, members had a chance to ask questions of sevent leading Democratic candidates for the Presidency - Republicans were invited too, but none elected to participate.  This Virtual Town Hall series is another example of the success progressives are having in using new tools to break down traditional barriers and allow for more and better communication between candidates and voters.  You can watch all the video here, and below is one clip that illustriates both the quality of the questions submitted by members and the candor candidates are capable of in this environment.

John McCain Leads Coalition of the Delusional

John McCain was in Baghdad this weekend with Senator Lindsay Graham to brag about how well the surge is going.  They capped off the trip by taking a "three minute drive across the Tigris river from the green zone" to walk through a market.  Accompanying the Senators were 100 heavily armed soldiers, 3 Blackhawk helicopters, 2 apache helicopters and a partridge in a pear tree.  NBC's Tom Aspell, who reported the story from Baghdad, told Imus that with similar military protection "even Paris Hilton could ride a bicycle in a bikini through Anbar province."  After you get that image out of your head, look for Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffery's reasoned analysis of what is really going on in Iraq today.

You negotiate with the Iran you have...

Robert Gates is bringing a new realism to the Defense Department, sharing what should be blindingly obvious, that we have to engage Iran, in his first speech since replacing Donald Rumsfeld earlier this year.  From the WAPO:

In his first domestic public speech since taking office in December, Gates laid out a pragmatic approach to foreign policy -- one that emphasizes using diplomacy to overcome disagreements with Turkey, Iran and other nations regarding Iraq.

Gates, who had advocated dialogue with Iran before becoming defense secretary, said "the regional talks recently held in Baghdad were a good start toward improved cooperation, and our government is open to higher-level exchanges."

Too bad he wasn't there in 2003 when the Bush Administration passed on the opportunity to negotiate a grand bargain with Iran, that could have included support for terrorism, WMD, recognition of the state of Israel, the sovereignty of Iraq, etc.

Iranian Weapons in Iraq

Fascinating in-depth article in the NYT today on the alleged flow of Iranian weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq.  The whole article is worth reading for a reminder of how complicated the situation is and how little foresight went into the planning of this war.  Especially worth noting is the final quote of the article, where ISG Co-Chair Lee Hamilton renews the call for engaging Iran:

“The fact that Iran may be supplying lethal equipment is all the more reason to deal with them,” Lee H. Hamilton, a co-chairman of the panel, said in an interview. “We do think it fortifies the case for engaging Iran.”

Iraq Vote Moves to the Senate and Looms Over 2008

You know 2008 can't be too far away when you see the byline "North Conway, N.H." in the New York Times.  But the paper of record isn't there to talk Presidential politics.  Instead, they're looking at the War in Iraq and what it means for Senators up for reelection in 2008.  Senators like John Sununu are finding even in the safe Republican ground of New Hampshire there are plenty of people with a keen interest in what the Senate is going to do with the Iraq War supplemental funding bill, and the broader issue of the role of American troops in Iraq, four years after Saddam Hussein was overthrown.

On Monday, the Senate resumes its protracted struggle to forge an Iraq strategy. Mr. Sununu and a handful of Republicans — including those facing re-election next year and those who have expressed unhappiness with President Bush’s conduct of the war but are uncomfortable with the idea of setting a date for withdrawal — find themselves searching for balance as they juggle three tasks: responding to the frustrations of their constituents, resisting the demands of antiwar Democrats and not entirely abandoning the White House. 

Read what NDN has been saying about finding a better way forward in the Middle East.

They had their chance

My Pennsylvania bias aside, I think you'll agree that this video of Rep. Patrick Murphy's closing speech on the Iraq Accountability Act is amazing.

NDN Statement on the Passage of the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act

This is an important day for our nation.  The US House of Representatives took a critical step towards bringing the failed foreign policy of the Bush era to an end, and have offered America a new and better path.  Though there is much to do in the years ahead to bring greater peace, prosperity and stability to the Middle East, the passage of the US Troop Readiness, Veteran's Health and Iraq Accountability Act is a responsible step in the right direction. 

I congratulate Speaker Pelosi and the entire Democratic leadership for having the courage to challenge our current course in Iraq, and for bringing the Democratic caucus together on such an important issue.  There should be little doubt that the Democrats heard the message sent by the voters last year, and are working to offer America a brighter future. 

"You have surrendered your judgment..."

Democratic Caucus Vice Chair and good friend of NDN Rep. John Larson, speaking in passionate defense of the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act.  It's truly time for a better way forward in the Middle East.   

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