21st Century Agenda for America

It's becoming "open season" on immigrants, undocumented or not

The Times Magazine has a remarkable story today by Alex Koltowitz about a an Illiinois town's aggressive effort to deal with its growing immigrant population.  It is a great piece of reporting, and powerfully captures the state of play of this complex issue with real Americans in the aftermath of the collapse of the immigration bill in June. 

The bottom line is that without federal action Hispanics - undocumented or not - are going to be inreasingly targeted and discriminated against.  The situation is untenable, on many levels, and if allowed to go unadressed, will likely make this issue a major one in the Presidential campaign next year.   There is simply no way our national leaders can continue to do nothing on the immigration issue - our immigration system is terribly broken and needs to be fixed immediately.   

Please take the time to read this compelling story.

Back from Yearly Kos

It was a remarkable event this year.  Jam packed series of panels about everything under the sun, powerful speeches by Markos and Howard Dean, and of course the Presidentials.  As Markos said in his remarks people at Yearly Kos are becoming a community, and it was great to see old friends and meet so many new ones.  

NDN had a very strong presence at the convention.  We ran 4 panels and participated in a fifth.  We talked about globalization, immigration and did three panels on various aspects of what we call the new politics.   Joining us for our panels were incredible people - Joe Trippi, Jerome Armstrong, SEIU's Eliseo Medina, Cecilia Munoz of NCLR, former Kerry Communications Director Stephanie Cutter, John Amato of Crooks and Liars, Dan Manatt of PoliticsTV, FDL's Marcy Wheeler, the all around wonderful Julie Bergman Sender and of course our crew of Pete Leyden, Ron Shapiro and Joe Garcia.  Our sessions were well-attended, and I feel like we did a good job sharing our ideas and engaging with the folks at the convention. 

I want to congratulate Gina Cooper, blogmother, and organizer of Yearly Kos.  A little more than two years ago she had an idea to bring together the Kos community, and the broader progressive and netroots worlds.  In a short period of time this idea of hers has turned what now may be the most important - and certainly the most fun - annual gathering of people in progressive politics.  It is an extraordinary accomplishment. 

I can't wait till next year.


More on the arms sales

In my posts this weekend I wondered whether the announced arms sales to the Sunni governments of the Middle East meant the Administration was strategically tossing the Shiite-led Maliki government in Iraq and the Iraqi Shiites under the bus, having now decided to back to the region's Sunnis in a more protracted battle against Iran and its regional allies.  A new post by Steve Benen at Talking Points Memo finds further evidence of this new "Sunni-tilt:"

Part of Gen. David Petraeus' job in Iraq is pressuring Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Apparently, heads of state don't care for marching orders from generals from other countries, so it's caused a little bit of a strain on their professional relationship.

OK, more than a little.

A key aide says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's relations with U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus are so poor the Iraqi leader may ask Washington the withdraw the well-regarded U.S. military leader from duty here.

The Iraqi foreign minister calls the relationship "difficult." ... U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who meets together with al-Maliki and Petraeus at least weekly, concedes "sometimes there are sporty exchanges."

Al-Maliki has spoken sharply -- not of Petraeus or Crocker personally -- but about their tactic of welcoming Sunni militants into the fight against al-Qaida forces in Anbar and Diyalah provinces.

First, if the U.S. policy of arming Sunni militias is exacerbating the strained relations, Maliki probably won't like the fact that the administration has decided to do more of this, not less.

Second, if the relationship has deteriorated as poorly as the article suggests, would the White House seriously pull Petraeus from Iraq? After basing most of the existing policy on Bush's confidence in the general?

Thinking more about the meaning of the new Middle Eastern arms sales

The Times has an editorial today which examines some of the issues raised in my post yesterday, The Endless War becomes a Regional War. 

An excerpt:

The Bush administration and Saudi Arabia’s ruling family have a lot in common, including oil, shared rivals like Iran and a penchant for denial that has allowed both to overlook the Saudis’ enabling role in the Sept. 11 attacks. But their recent wrangling over Iraq cannot be denied or papered over with proposals for a big new arms sale. And if these differences are not tackled, there is an increased likelihood that the war’s chaos will spread far beyond Iraq’s borders.

While Washington hasn’t protested publicly, Riyadh is pouring money into Sunni opposition groups and letting Saudis cross the border to join Sunni insurgents fighting the American-backed, Shiite-led government. Washington estimates that nearly half of the 60 to 80 foreign fighters entering Iraq each month come from Saudi Arabia....

Congressional leaders need to quickly assess the long-term implications of the Surge, Part II , the just-announced arms sales to Israel and the Sunni-led Arab governments in the Middle East.  Has the Administration settled on a longer term strategic plan for the region, a Cold War like containment policy towards the area's rising power, Iran, as is suggested in an excellent piece by Robin Wright in the Post today? And does this involve throwing the current Shiite-led Iraqi government under the bus? And if that is the case what exactly are our troops doing in Iraq then? Propping up a government and a nation we've already strategically abandoned?

For all the saber rattling at Iran for meddling inside Iraq - Joe Lieberman has called it a de facto declaration of war against the United States - there is substantial publically-available evidence that the Sunni governments of the Middle East are much more actively funding their end of the emerging proxy war in Iraq than the Iranians are.  Where is the public outrage over the Saudi's funding of insurgents regularly killing the US? Or of the Egyptian government's support of a bootlegged Sunni TV station in Iraq that regularly celebrates the deaths of American servicemen?

For those wanting to learn more about all this, I would strongly suggest checking into the thinking of noted Tufts University scholar, Vali Nasr.  You can watch an interview I did with him recently, and learn more about how to buy his compelling book here.

The endless war becomes a regional war

It is time for Congress to appoint one of their periodic Blue Ribbon Commissions to review all aspects of the Iraq War.  So much has gone wrong that we need to have a big discussion not how just to bring it to a close, but how to prevent it from ever happening again. 

The review should look at everything: from the pre-war build up, to the execution of the military campaign, to the planning for the aftermath, to the horrible aftermath itself.  The nation needs to turn this terrible experience, so expensive in terms of lives, money and our standing in the world into a learning experience for future generations.  If Congress were to do this, and do it well, it would be a tremendous public service to the nation.  And the review could come out in late 2008 or early 2009 so as not to interfere with the Presidential Election, but to assist the next Administration in its own conduct of foreign policy in the post-Bush era. 

Two major stories today highlight the extent of the failure of our policy in the region.  The first, in the Times, details a new report on our reconstruction efforts in Iraq.  Remarkably, the $5.8 billion reviewed in the report is the cost of perhaps 2 weeks of our military efforts there (clearly inadequate btw), and yet it has been a total disaster:

Iraq’s national government is refusing to take possession of thousands of American-financed reconstruction projects, forcing the United States either to hand them over to local Iraqis, who often lack the proper training and resources to keep the projects running, or commit new money to an effort that has already consumed billions of taxpayer dollars.

The conclusions, detailed in a report released Friday by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, a federal oversight agency, include the finding that of 2,797 completed projects costing $5.8 billion, Iraq’s national government had, by the spring of this year, accepted only 435 projects valued at $501 million. Few transfers to Iraqi national government control have taken place since the current Iraqi government, which is frequently criticized for inaction on matters relating to the American intervention, took office in 2006.

The next is a story, widely reported this morning, on how the Administration has made a massive sale of arms to Israel and the Middle East's Sunni governments.  While there is much to discuss about with this move, it has been sold as a way to counter the region's new great threat - the rise of Iran.  What amazes me about our the War Supporters newfound fear of Iran's ascension is how, of course, the rising regional influence of Iran's is the direct result of the Iraq War itself.  Remember that it was our policy to installed in Iraq a Shiite government closely allied with Iran, upsetting the Sunni-Shiite political balance in the region.  When we hear Bush, and Senator Lieberman, go on about Iran we have to ask them was there any other possible outcome of your Iraq policy, which included the instillation of a Shiite-led Iranian-allied government in Iraq, then the regional ascension of Iran?  All of this feels like so much stumbling around in the geopolitical dark. 

And how will our Shiite allies running the Iraqi government respond to the arming of the Sunni governments in the region who are already funding Sunni insurgents in Iraq working to undermine the Iraqi government? Are the Saudi's funding Al Qaeda for example? Will these new arms we are providing to the region's Sunnis end up back in Iraq in Al Qaeda's hands, or other Sunni insurgents intent on killing Americans? Is this move an acknowledgement of our failure in Iraq, that our post-war political strategy in the region has failed, and the establishment of a predicate for withdrawal and abandonment of Iraq's Shiites and their government? Have we, with this act, essential chosen the region's Sunnis over the Shiites and thrown the Iraqi government under the bus?  

The endless Iraq war has now officially become a regional war.  It is long past time for a big conversation not just about ending the war in Iraq, but also for what our vision is for the region in its aftermath.  Bush has layed down a new and powerful marker.  What is the proper response?



What's the Plan, Mr President?

In a new letter, Senate Democrats challenge the President to explain his foreign policy strategy:

The President

The White House

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

       Press reports today indicate that the National Counterterrorism Center, our government’s top counterterrorism experts, recently concluded that Al Qaeda has significantly rebuilt itself since 2001 and is now as strong as ever.  Earlier this week, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff stated he believes the country faces an increased chance of a terrorist attack this summer.  Additionally, today's Initial Benchmark Assessment Report outlines that the Iraqi government has failed to meet any of the key benchmarks they set for themselves, demonstrating that the war in Iraq continues to head in the wrong direction.  These developments are the latest troubling indicators that your national security strategy is making America less secure and has left America vulnerable to terrorist attack. 

      It has become increasingly obvious that the war in Iraq has only exacerbated the terrorist threat.  Iraq has now become what it was not before the start of the conflict there, namely a training ground and launching pad for a new generation of terrorists.  Your focus on Iraq has permitted Al Qaeda to gather strength elsewhere to the point where Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell recently concluded that the next attack on America most likely “would be planned and come out of the [Al Qaeda] leadership in Pakistan.”  Meanwhile, repeated and extended deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched our military to the breaking point and reduced readiness to levels not seen since Vietnam.  Finally, most Guard and Reserve units in our states no longer have the equipment they need to perform their tasks, either abroad or here at home in the event of a national emergency or a disaster.

       It is precisely because of our concerns about these developments that Senate Democrats have been pushing to rebuild and reequip our military, fully implement the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations, enhance our special operations and intelligence capabilities, and, perhaps most urgently, change your strategy in Iraq.  We are surprised that you and many congressional Republicans have resisted these efforts and concerned that you continue to do so.

      We ask that you immediately inform Congress through the appropriate channels of (1) the near-term steps your Administration has taken or plans to take to address Secretary Chertoff’s heightened concerns about the terrorist threat, and (2) the strategy to reverse the alarming growth of Al Qaeda and affiliated extremist groups.

      Thank you for your consideration of these views and we look forward to your prompt response.


      Harry Reid

      Richard J. Durbin

      Charles E. Schumer

      Patty Murray

I had some thoughts about all this this morning. 

A failed foreign policy

Morning shows and the am papers all leading with the story that Al Qaeda is regrouping, stronger than ever.  Sec. Chertoff was on Fox talking about the threat, so it seems as if this is a White House strategy to scare folks during the upcoming Senate debate. 

But is this is a good strategy? Doesn't it just reinforce that the Administration's foreign policy has been an utter failure in every way? Al Qaeda is stronger.  Iraq has failed, and will end up exporting chaos throughout the region and the world.  Our traditional allies in the Middle East and Pakistan are losing ground to radical elements.  Israel is weaker than before.  Iran is closer to having nuclear weapons.  Our standing in Latin America is at an all time low, and Hugo Chavez's influence is on the rise.  Russia is becoming an ever more important problem.  Afghanistan is not coming along as promised.  On trade liberalization  Doha has stalled, TPA expired and prospects for important trade agreements with South Korea and Columbia look dim.  No action has been taken on combating climate change, and our military has been severely degraded.  

Does the Administration really want to broaden this debate beyond Iraq?

I say "bring it on."

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