Monday, June 30, 2008

Patriotism in Politics

It only took a weekend – and Wes said it again on Sunday to waiting microphones. (I can call him “Wes” as we were in the same West Point class. We became acquainted in “plebe” summer when all new cadets are allowed to think of themselves as a minor step above the lowest insect alive. Only later did he become First Captain of the Corps of Cadets, a Rhodes Scholar, a four star general, and a presidential candidate.)

I had heard Wes the first time – at a book launch (not one of his) on Thursday when he made his observation that being a prisoner of war or the commander of a carrier air wing in peacetime were not necessarily credentials for the presidency. Clark said he was not in any way questioning McCain’s patriotism or what had been an honorable and long military career.

The relevance of Clark’s observations – they were not “accidentally” overheard through an open mike – to the political race for the White House – still escapes me in light of the fact that McCain’s opponent in the presidential sweepstakes is Barak Obama, not Wesley Clark. Clark intimates that he is more qualified to be commander-in-chief since he was in command when the “hard” decision had to be made to bomb Serbia.

Well, I never had to make a decision to bomb anybody – and I suggest that well under half of our West Point class had to decide whether todrop bombs or fire long-range rockets at an enemy. I never commanded any unit above an infantry platoon (the Army calls that position “platoon leader” and not “platoon commander”) and that was in a non-hostile theater.

The point is that all three of us had jobs to do when we were in uniform, different jobs at different levels. What is important – what is “patriotic – is that Clark and McCain (and I trust others will so judge me) served honorably and well.

Americans need to get off this kick that measures “patriotism” by whether or not people wore a uniform or whether they did or did not go into a war zone. War has nothing to do with patriotism. Even everyday language shows us that by “defining” patriotism to be love of country.

War, by contrast, has nothing of love, only death and destruction.

Ask anyone who has been in one.

Friday, June 27, 2008

In Search of a Strategy

It made little difference these past seven days what I read or what people talked about at meetings I attended. The dominant concept – what Groucho Marx would call the “Magic word” – had to be “strategy.” And what was most noticeable was the number of contexts within which those speaking or writing pleaded for the development, implementation, fine-tuning, revising, or junking what passed for strategy the presenter’s field of expertise.

The most frequent context, well beyond the usual association with the military, had to be economics in general and the cost of energy – chiefly petroleum – in particular. The observant “gas-self servicer” probably doesn’t remember how many minutes she mused to spend filling the family auto. The next time you fill the car gas tank, try timing just how long it takes to put in the first dollar’s worth of petrol. You may well fine that you need a stopwatch to register an elapsed time. And if you are quick enough to detect the passage of the single second needed for the first dollar at today’s prices, I doubt you will be able to get by without a stopwatch should the prediction, by the President of OPEC, of crude oil hitting $170 per barrel later this summer actually comes to pass.

The White House’s solution – it shies from using the word “strategy” – is more drilling off-shore and in ANWR and a $300 million bounty to the person who invents a battery for electric cars that can go more than 400 miles without re-charging. “Conservation” is again on everyone’s lips, and not far behind come “solar” and “wind.”

Then there is the violent “energy” that Nature seems to be unleashing with greater frequency and more devastation than in recent decades. Spectacular “lightning-storms” are ravaging the drought-stricken Far West by starting dozens of brush fires that then are spread by on-shore winds. Simultaneously – can one say perversely -- savage thunderstorms spawn dozens of tornadoes and dump multiple inches of rain throughout what I always think of as the nation’s middle: the Mississippi River valley. (The geographic center of the contiguous 48 states is Lebanon, Kansas, well to the west of the Mississippi River.) From Wisconsin to Texas and Louisiana to Illinois, at least ten states have sustained severe physical from rain-swollen rivers that broke through or are threatening three dozen levees, flooding farms and whole towns – and the river crest has yet to clear Missouri as it moves down the Mississippi towards the Gulf of Mexico.

Being the summer of a presidential election year, the normal political thrusts and parries between the country’s major political parties have given way to the “pre-campaign” rhetoric by which the nominees test the receptivity of the public to proposals and promises to fix everything that’s amiss in the country.

The other element in the administration’s “energy strategy” – what in fact was their strategy throughout the 2000 presidential campaign and which they finally launched in March 2003 – has now also hit a major clock where one had not been anticipated when Baghdad experienced regime change. In the negotiations between the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki and the Bush administration, the Iraqis rejected all of Washington’s initial demands. Last week, in Jordan, al-Maliki pronounced the talks “at a dead end.” Over the course of this week the administration in Washington, the U.S. negotiators in Baghdad, and al-Maliki’s spokespersons have been upbeat on the progress being made, but at week’s end the talks appeared to have reached consensus on only one point: American contractors working in Iraq will not have immunity from prosecution for breaking Iraqi law.

(The other U.S. conditions are immunity from prosecution for U.S. military per for violating Iraqi law; conducting combat operations when and where U.S. commanders designate; authority to arrest, detain, and interrogate Iraqis suspected of anti-U.S. activities; control of Iraqi airspace up to 30,000 feet; and the right of U.S. – not Iraqi – military commanders to determine when Iraqi sovereignty has been violated and what military response, if any, is appropriate.)

Two gatherings this week managed to remain, more or less, above the weeds of day-to-day events and rise on occasion to deal with “grand strategy.” “Forceful Engagement” challenged the meeting’s participants to work out not only the means by which the United States could engage the rest of the world – in this gathering there were no isolationists – but to identify what levers of national power could be sharpened and employed in ways that would enable the U.S. to attain its objectives without the resort – even as the hallowed “last resort” – to armed conflict. In fact, contrary to the usual White House, State Department, and Defense Department mantras whenever another country displeases Washington, the phrase “all options are on the table” is banned – along with the threat to use or actually use military force.

The second gathering introduced “Ideas for America’s Future: Core Elements of a New National Security Strategy” whose principal author is Jeffrey Bialos. Once again, the main theme is “engagement” at the international, government-to-government level, where military engagement is neither the only nor the first line of contact.

All of which recalled to mind Tom Barnett’s assertion that “September 11 did not merely substitute al Qaeda for China; it knock the concept of the “Big One” right off its doctrinal pedestal.”

Seven years later, “counter-insurgency” is being touted as the strategic replacement for the peer challenge. If we hope to escape falling into just another militarized mindset when we consider how to engage others, the nation will have to rise above the “strategies of politics to a new – or renewed – international grand strategy of global engagement.

Monday, June 23, 2008

When Death is the Arbiter

Question: So, how can you tell if you’re with “professionals”?

Answer: If, when the guy wearing the black hood gets up, the other guy is still breathing.

Put another way – and, according to the Associated Press, a CIA lawyer did exactly that before a gathering of military intelligence officers from the Pentagon a little more than a year after U.S. bombs and missiles fell on Afghanistan – “Torture is basically\y subject to perception. … [But] if the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.”

At one time, and not that long ago, interrogators concentrated on wheedling useful information out of detainees, not whether the one detained was alive or dead.

That part of the Bush push to roll back decades of precedence and international law concerning the rights of detainees never made any sense. If a detainee doesn’t evince any indication of knowing the answers to the interrogator’s queries, it just might be that the prisoner doesn’t know for one or more reasons – e.g., wrong person identified either by error or purposefully to get them out of the way; or the detainee was in the wrong place at the right time to be caught up in a military sweep.

What does one do when there are hundreds of detainees at, say Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba, who insist they are not al-Qaeda fighters or Taliban adherents, that they were mistakenly identified as enemy fighters to U.S. troops, arrested, and flown to Guantanamo without further investigation until months after their arrival? Never charged, never arraigned, imprisoned on the word of perhaps a single person whose identity might be unknown, nevertheless still classified as an “unlawful enemy combatant” by a Combat Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) – all the while being denied qualified counsel to mount an effective challenge to the heavily biased and thoroughly foreign “legal” procedure.

If you are in the Bush administration, you ignore the safeguards of the Constitution that require either a speedy trial or a habeas corpus hearing by claiming that the powers of the commander in chief in wartime (duly announced by the commander in chief but not declared by the Congress) trump the other two branches of government – including the power to interpret the Constitution and statutes passed by Congress and issue presidential findings and regulatory decisions.

That the administration has been on shaky legal ground seemed confirmed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 12 decision on the right of the Guantanamo petitioners to have habeas corpus hearings in federal courts. Now the government wants time to re-write and to add new details to the evidence they will use at any hearings. Yet they were quite ready – and did – use what they now admit by this request what was incomplete and unsubstantiated “evidence” before the CSRTs that were the sole review (at that time) of the status of the detainees.

For sure, a dead detainee will not provide any information to anyone on any subject – other than perhaps prima facie evidence in a murder or war crimes trial for interrogators who violate international laws or domestic statutes.

Equally, detainees who are isolated with no way to challenge their detainment are effectively “dead” to their families and friends. This too, perhaps, requires some sanction so that future administrations not try the same tactic.

Friday, June 20, 2008

On a break

Gone fishing-- trying to catch up on reading Supreme Court decision on habeas. Back Monday

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

At Arlington

Today I attended the interment of a former colleague from the Center for Defense Information (CDI), Captain (Ret.) James Bush, USN.

Jim was tall – well over six feet – and big boned. His hands were huge and powerful; I could see him as an actor in the title role in Shakespeare’s Othello or perhaps a concert pianist, one of a limited number with the hand span to play Rachmaninoff’s piano works.

And then there was that gravelly voice – so loud was it that when he spoke it was truly like the roar of a lion. But behind that roar was a very gentle person –at least by the time I first met him in 1993 at CDI.

One last bit of biography. Jim was a submariner. He commanded a “boomer,” one of the Ohio-Class nuclear powered subs that carried nuclear tipped Trident intercontinental ballistic missiles. In fact, this experience and the cant from the policy hawks in Washington that the U.S. could fight and actually “win” a nuclear war was one of the reasons Jim joined CDI when he retired from the Navy. Like the two retired admirals who oversaw CDI’s efforts, Gene LaRoche and Gene Carroll, Jim Bush knew that no one would win.

Jim had a full life – a wonderful family, many friends, and many others who, although perhaps not sharing his post-Navy views, nonetheless respected his principles. I doubt that any in the latter category were at the full-honors ceremony at Arlington, which included an effort at the Navy Hymn by the 35-40 people present, and the traditional honor guard, the playing of “Taps,” and the presentation of the folded flag to the surviving family members.

Right now, this ceremony is being repeated across the land, not for the grizzled Vietnam War and Cold War veterans but for the young who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was grief today for Jim’s passing, tempered by the knowledge that he had contributed not once but twice, in almost diametrically opposite ways, to safeguarding the soul of the nation from the folly of politicians who seem ever ready to plunge into war. The young dead of today also evoke grief from their families and friends, but there is for them the additional void of talent unrealized and possibilities never fulfilled simply because every man and woman's untimely death steals the future from us all.

And it is precisely the enormity of the loss of all those “what might have beens” that the George W. Bush (no relation to Jim) White House and Pentagon sought to hide from the public these many years by banning press coverage of returning caskets at Dover Air Force Base.

Never again.

God speed, Jim.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Of Salmonella and Oil

You Are What You Consume – Or Maybe What Consumes You

Once again consumers are being warned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about potentially lethal produce that has apparently entered the food chain and made it all the way to kitchen and dining room tables. This time the culprits are plum and cherry tomatoes and the toxin is salmonella.

Unlike recalls of other tainted food – remember lettuce, “mad cow” hamburger meat, and high lead content in baby bottles leaching into milk – one would think that neither consumers nor health officials would have any trouble with mere tomatoes. Yet when the FDA advised consumers to throw out all suspect tomatoes and thoroughly cook those they intended to consume, neither agency provided guidance as to the minimum temperature and cooking time to kill salmonella. What the government agencies did say was that washing tomatoes before consuming them – not a bad practice for all fresh produce – is not enough to be sure that the salmonella has been killed.

For the McBurger generations there’s also a cultural issue. No one wants a hot, limp tomato slice on each side of the triple super-duper McWendy. Such monsters call for thick, cold tomato slices that provide anchor points as one tries not to unhinge the jaw in what is often a failed effort to catch in a single bite a bit of every taste sensation.

On reflection, the salmonella saga is a perfect example of the inversion of proper governance by George Bush and the neocons that have tried to implement their agenda.
The Bush administration that assumed control of the U.S. government in 2001 had in mind one overriding goal: to secure for the U.S. effective control if not outright ownership, via transnational conglomerates, of America’s “fair share” of crude oil – and do so before someone establishes that “peak oil” capacity has been reached.

This program of action had nothing to do with the general public, although if successful it would allow Americans to continue to buy gas-guzzlers for a few more years before the whole industry went into decline. The neocons set their eyes on the prize that got away in 1991when President George H. W. Bush halted the U.S. – led coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait but did not press home this success by going to Baghdad, deposing Saddam, and occupying the oil Ministry and fields – as they now planned to do and – initially – succeeded in doing.

Bush 43 and company came into office with the idea that it could manipulate the public into an assertive policy toward the rest of the world in general and toward the Baghdad regime in particular. The hard part would be to find the right pretext(s) that would convince the public that Saddam had to go and had to go in a war; otherwise, there would be no justification for U.S. forces to go into Iraq. For without a military presence of sufficient size to be credible, oil might once again slip from their grasp.

As it turned out, Osama bin Laden aroused in the U.S. public both fear and a desire for revenge that the administration could and did use for its own purposes. What Washington hadn’t counted on was the re-awakening nationalism engendered by the long occupation.

The FOBs (Friends of Bush) have their profits; the officials who helped them get the money will “get theirs” after the administration leaves office and a “decent interval” passes.

And the public? We don’t have the oil, so we can’t even drive to the store to get the tomatoes that we can’t cook (no oil). On the other hand, without fuel to cook the hamburgers, what do we need tomatoes for?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Guantanamo June 2008 -- The Court Rules Part I

In another landmark – with emphasis on “land” – decision July 10th, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed yet again the primacy of the rule of law (the Constitution) over the rule by law (the unitary presidency abetted by a self-eviscerated Congress).

Perhaps it is a reflection of the deep divisions running through the body politic that have their genesis in the Bush administration’s self-declared “Global War on Terror” (GWOT), but the two dissenting opinions in the 5-4 decision on Boumediene et al. vs. Bush and Al Odah vs. United States seemed to a non-lawyer to be particularly harsh in their rejection of the majority opinion written by the “swing” jurist, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The overriding issue before the court concerned the ancient (pre- Magna Carta) English right of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum (“you may have the body subject to examination”). This was not the first such case associated specifically with the GWOT to challenge the government’s handling of accused al-Qaeda and Taliban loyalists captured by U.S. troops fighting abroad – more like the fifth time around. In their previous decisions, the Court majority tended to focus on procedural remedies within the judiciary and even to suggest remedies that the political branches of government could enact. This time, however, Justice Kennedy chose to “get down in the weeds” and let the logic of the cases point the way to the remedy for the plaintiffs, if appropriate, or affirm the contention of the Bush Justice Department that the president’s power during wartime overrode judicial power.

Justice Kennedy broke the issue into four parts. The first point that required clarification was whether or not the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was foreign territory – where the right of habeas corpus would not apply to any foreigner captured abroad and designated as an “unlawful enemy combatant.”

In the early 19th century, the United States tried to purchase Cuba from its colonial European master Spain, but to no avail. At the end of the century, the Spanish-American War settled the matter when Spain lost the last significant parts of her once-vast empire. Cuba became the sole responsibility of the United States when the Spanish governor-general left on January 1st, 1899. Not knowing what else to do, U.S. troops organized themselves into an occupation force with U.S. officers effectively acting as the real power behind a figurehead Cuban governor. While the poor state of public health was a major concern or many, other U.S. officials worried that Cuba might not be able to ward off foreign invasion or internal subversion.

To preclude an unfriendly government just 90 miles from the U. S. mainland, Washington decided to “help” the newly independent nation draft its constitution. Incorporated in that basic document was the “Platt Amendment.” This allowed the U.S. to intervene in Cuba to help the government repel foreign invasion and maintain internal security and order. It also provided for the indefinite lease to the United States of 45 square miles of Cuban territory to the U.S. for the purpose of “coaling or naval stations only.” The lease provided exclusive use by the U.S. for an annual payment to Cuba of just over $4,000 U.S. dollars annually. What was so extraordinary about this provision of Cuba’s 1902 Constitution is that it is exactly the same language as appears in the 1901 military appropriations bill funding United States armed forces around the world.

Jump another century to December 2001-January 2002. Guantanamo remains under U.S. control. It had last been used in the 1990s when Haitians fled their country in the aftermath of the generals’ coup. Now it had been converted into an open-air prison for those whom then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld termed “the worst of the worst.” These and hundreds more “unlawful enemy combatants” needed to be incarcerated so they could not return to the battle zones. But they also had to be interrogated – sometimes including “techniques” that others would regard as abusive or as torture. The Bush administration thought that such violations could be covered up since the Pentagon completely controlled the access to the base.

A key factor in the decision of the Court revolves around this particular point. The Bush White House from the very beginning was intent on incarcerating the “worst of the worst” somewhere that would preclude all recourse to judicial relief from indefinite detention. Two possibilities presented themselves: the system of “black” or secret prisons run by the CIA in collusion with comparable “friendly” intelligence services around the world, or Guantanamo Bay.

One can only assume that the CIA was adamant that its secret prison system should be restricted to Rumsfeld’s class of enemies to reduce the chances that the system would be discovered and have to close – with embarrassing publicity about human rights and other violations of international agreements related to the Geneva Conventions.

The CIA “won” that debate, but in so doing confirmed the logic of the history of Guantanamo: de jure it is Cuban but de facto it is under the exclusive control of the United States – and as such the right to habeas corpus exists for anyone imprisoned there.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Iraq As Indian Country -- Again

These days, everybody who is anybody is calling for change – and not just the pittance left to drop into a pocket, purse, or piggy bank after a stop at the grocery store and the petrol station.

But there is a place where a significant majority of the public is rejecting the future, or at least a large part of the future that the administration of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tentatively worked out with President George W. Bush last November in the U.S. – Iraq “Declaration of Principles.”

Normally, when emissaries from allied countries meet to develop or revise and extend written accords, they start with commonality of means, method, and motivation. Not so the Iraqi parliamentarians who forced al-Maliki to open the negotiations to senior Shi’a members of the legislature. Already suspicious of U.S. intentions, the Iraqi representatives reportedly were stunned (might one say shocked and awed?) by the sheer temerity of the U.S. position:

- - blanket immunity for all U.S. military and all “private military contractor” personnel from Iraqi law (presumably both civil and religious law to avoid controversy should a Muslim U.S. service member be assigned to duty in Iraq;

- control of all Iraqi air space below 30,000 feet (presumably to conduct close air support when needed without having to worry about civil airliners intruding into the area where the fighting is;

- the U.S., not Iraq, will decide if a “hostile” activity or incident directed at Iraq from any of its neighbors constitutes “aggression,” thereby empowering the U.S. president to launch a preemptive attack on a neighboring country (e.g. Iran), should the neighbor commit any overt or covert action – regardless of whether or not the neighbor was provoked by an even earlier American action – thus allowing the White House to claim it acted under Article 51 of the UN Charter that allows for self-defense;

- the U.S. - Iraq agreement would have no termination date and no provision even to review its provisions after the passage of a set number of years.

In other words, once signed and ratified, both Washington and Baghdad could put the agreement on the shelf and forget it.

There seems to be only one concession by Washington: the agreement can be cancelled by either party effective two years after invoking the power to opt out. Even this is only a half concession, for normally treaties can be cancelled effective 6 months or one year after notice of withdrawal.

Bush is doing to Iraqia what the European colonists and later the federal goverment did to Native Americans: destroyed their sovereignty.

Welcome to Indian country -- again.

Monday, June 09, 2008

An Ode to Heat

The Furies of Nature are at it once more,
Today the heat index neared one hundred and four.

The 'hood then went dark when a transformer popped
Ending all air conditioning 'til past five on the clock.

But wait -- that's not all. Next the car battery failed.
Triple A said the wait might be up to an hour.

T'was not quite that long, but I too felt quite drained
By the time I set eyes on our home on the range.

So that's the whole reason why there's no blog tonight
Just this ill-written doggerel that I hope is spelled right.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Remembering June 6 is D-Day

Today is the 64th anniversary of D-Day.

Right up-front, I do not pretend that I have been glued to CNN or the broadcast stations listening for some news anchor to make note of the day. But I did ask a gathering of about ten visitors to FCNL if any of them had heard a reference to what occurred this date in 1944; none had.

Does it matter anymore? Well, no and yes. Or perhaps “maybe” and then “no” – unless that last “no” could possibly be a “yes” if I think about it.

Let me simply give my perspective. Then you decide for yourself and let me know your position which then can be posted on the blog site.

On the “no” side, the world that emerged from the death (estimated to have totaled 55 million civilian and military combined) and destruction of World War II piled on the destruction and death (estimated 15 million total) of World War I in many ways disappeared in the last dozen years of the 20th century. With the anchors that had defined the bi-polar world wrenched from their mooring by the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact and then the USSR, the geo-political world drifted for the first half of these 12 years (1988-1994) with no one in charge.

Then came the new genocides in Rwanda and Burundi and the break-up of Yugoslavia which re-awakened the religious and ethnic divisions that had lain dormant for 80 years. What started as civil war became internationalized by the intervention of NATO and/or the UN under the doctrine of the “responsibility to protect.”

So we come back to World War I and Woodrow Wilson who believed that the United States had a responsibility to spread democracy and democratic institutions around the globe. This is the same belief that George Bush carried into the White House in 2001. But unlike Wilson, who saw an equitable, non-punitive peace treaty with the new post-war German government as the starting point for his crusade against autocratic rule, Bush was determined to take the nation into war to achieve his crusade

World War II has been christened “The Good War” while the First World War can muster no better epithet than “The War to End All Wars.” And while this latter carries with it a sense of moral obligation to avoid new wars, the harsh “peace” terms imposed on the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) virtually guaranteed future armed conflict in Europe.

Given the above, my answer is “yes, D-Day still matters.” We have started in the same direction as the world went in the early 20th century. It is not the same path but a more harrowing one because now eight countries have nuclear weapons that, if ever used, could wreak sufficient destruction to doom the planet and the human race.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Nature Wins Another One

Heavy storms yesterday afternoon forced a shut-down in the office and knocked my home computer off the net.

Lookfor a Blog June 6

Monday, June 02, 2008

May War Statistics

May was a ”good” month – comparatively – except for the 19 U.S. service members and the two soldiers from the Georgia Republic who died while participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The U.S. toll is the lowest of any month recorded since the invasion in March 2003. The previous low of 20 came in February 2004, a 29 day month (leap year).

Four of the U.S. fatalities were due to non-hostile causes, raising the total fatalities for U.S. troops due to non-hostile causes to 743, approximately 18% of the war’s 4,085 total U.S. dead through May 31 of this year. Total Coalition killed in Iraq now stands at 312, with Great Britain suffering the most killed among Coalition countries with 176 dead.

May also saw two more U.S. female soldiers die, raising the U.S. total so far in calendar 2008 to five bring the Coalition total for female fatalities to 105, 98 of whom were in the U.S. contingent. (Of the other 7 females to have died in Iraq, six were British and one was Ukrainian.)

Iraqi casualties decreased in May as compared to April. Iraqi Security forces lost 110, down by three from April. Iraqi civilian/non- combatant deaths were reported at 396 in May, down 37 percent from April’s 631.

In Afghanistan, May saw a total of 24 U.S. and coalition fatalities, 17 U.S. and 7 from other coalition countries. Considering that the year to date totals for the U.S. and other coalition countries are 38 and 40, respectively, this was an extremely bloody month with nearly half – 45 percent – of U.S. fatalities for 2008 coming in May.

In fact, the 17 U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan for May almost equaled U.S. fatalities in Iraq – 19 – for the same month. This near conjunction is the result of:

-heavier fighting in Afghanistan against a revived Taliban;

-less exposure of U.S forces in Iraq to al-Qaeda- in-Iraq and other insurgents;

-the completion of withdrawing the two Marine battalions and three of the five Army Brigade Combat Teams that constituted the “troop surge”;

-the continuing stand-down of the Mahdi army; and

-the general adherence of the Sunni “Awakening Councils” in Anwar province to their pledge to not fight against U.S. and coalition forces.

How long Iraq remains quiet is an open question, but with the last two Brigade Combat Teams due to leave Iraq this month, the opposition to the U.S. presence will be better positioned to renew the fight. Over this past weekend, a very vocal segment of Iraq’s society peacefully protested against the U.S.-Iraq “Declaration of Principles” that the U.S. is trying to use as the basis for an “agreement” that would legitimize the continuing presence of U.S. forces in Iraq after the UN mandate expires December 31, 2008.

The message, apparently not heard by Washington, is uncomplicated: “Goodbye!”

What part of this sentiment does the Bush administration not understand?