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Iraq Accountability


Photo via an AP stringer in Baghdad, Iraq.

Enough of the excuses.  Enough of the backpedalling and labelling.  Enough of the public tap dance around "stay the course." 

The Bush Administration labels of the day are irrelevent — Iraq is a mess, and it became the quagmire that it is today on George Bush's and the Republican rubber stamp Congress' watch, with some help from George's bff Joe Lieberman, who provided a consistent whiff of bipartisan cover every step along the way, and still is. 

The time for accountability is now.

In what is turning out to be the deadliest month for American troops in Iraq, the Bush Administration is slinking creeping hightailing it away from its own words, despite there being so many instances of George Bush saying "stay the course" on videotape that you could put together a half hour highlight reel and leave some tape on the cutting room floor for good measure.

The American public are not complete idiots — and we do not like a liar.  And what we like even less than a liar?  Not taking care of our own.  To wit:

The women and children who formed a line at Camp Pendleton last week could have been waiting for a child-care center to open or Disney on Ice tickets to go on sale.

Instead, they were waiting for day-old bread and frozen dinners packaged in slightly damaged boxes. These families are among a growing number of military households in San Diego County that regularly rely on donated food.

As the Iraq war marches toward its fourth anniversary, food lines operated by churches and other nonprofit groups are an increasingly valuable presence on military bases countywide. Leaders of the charitable groups say they're scrambling to fill a need not seen since World War II.

Too often, the supplies run out before the lines do, said Regina Hunter, who coordinates food distribution at one Camp Pendleton site.

“Here they are defending the country. . . . It is heartbreaking to see,” said Hunter, manager of the on-base Abby Reinke Community Center. “If we could find more sources of food, we would open the program up to more people. We believe anyone who stands in a line for food needs it and deserves it.”

The base's list of recipients swells by 100 to 150 people a month as the food programs streamline their eligibility process, word spreads among residents and ever-proud Marines adjust to the idea of accepting donated goods.

At least 2,000 financially strapped people in North County qualify for food and other items given out at the center and a Camp Pendleton warehouse run by the Military Outreach Ministry.

To the south, about 1,500 individuals pick up free food, diapers or furniture at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and several military-oriented distribution sites supported by churches and the San Diego Food Bank.

The numbers don't include military households that frequent other charities countywide to get enough to eat.

It is no wonder that Generals who just retired from the military are speaking out and asking that folks vote for Democrats in the upcoming election. (If you aren't a Salon member, you can watch an ad to read the article – it's a good one and worth it.  H/T to TeddySanFran for the link.)

Two retired senior Army generals, who served in Iraq and previously voted Republican, are now openly endorsing a Democratic takeover of Congress. The generals, and an active-duty senior military official, told Salon in separate interviews that they believe a Democratic victory will help reverse course from what they consider to be a disastrous Bush administration policy in Iraq. The two retired generals, Maj. Gen. John Batiste and retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, first openly criticized the handling of the war last spring, when they called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"The best thing that can happen right now is for one or both of our houses to go Democratic so we can have some oversight," Batiste, who led the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, told Salon. Batiste describes himself as a "lifelong Republican." But now, he said, "It is time for a change."

The letters of redress detailed in the article that servicemembers are sending to their members of Congress, begging for accountability?  It will break your heart and make you angry, all at the same time. 

What could we possibly need accountability on, you ask? How about war profiteering? Or the cuts in veterans medical benefits? Or the fact that Donald Rumsfeld should have been out on his ass after the looting of the ministry buildings in Baghdad, his continued piss poor planning, and his need to cashier anyone out of the military brass who doesn't agree with him?

And that's just for starters.

The Republican party has controlled both houses of Congress and the White House for the last five years.  FIVE years.  There has been no oversight, no accountability and, frankly, could you trust them to shape up and actually start doing their jobs now? 

I mean honestly — after five years of cronyism and no-bid contracts and an utter failure to hold meaningful oversight hearings on much of anything at all — why would anyone trust the Republicans?

Our military deserves much better than this.  So do their families.  So do we all.  As a nation, we must stand up for the folks in uniform, because they are not allowed to talk about politics under the UCMJ while they serve.  We must be their voice.

I cannot tell you how unusual it is to have high ranking Generals like Batiste and Eaton speak out so forcefully so soon after retirement.  It just is not done.  That they are doing so now — along with so many others — tells me that things are very, very bad indeed within the ranks, and that fears that the Army and Marines and our reserves and national guard are beeing broken from the inside out may be even more warranted than I already feared.

Had enough?  Vote for Democrats.  It is well past time for Iraq accountability, and we sure as hell are not going to get any from Republicans, are we?

Juan Cole has the latest in news from Iraq, along with Swopa and Laura Rozen.

 [If you live anywhere near San Diego county and would like to donate food or other goods, the newspaper had the following for contacts: "Ways to help People interested in donating food, furniture or money to help military families in San Diego County can call: Military Outreach Ministry at Camp Pendleton: (760) 908-7043; Military Outreach Ministries at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station: (619) 843-8964." I'm sure there may be other groups as well, including groups around or near every military base in this country where soldiers are serving overseas at the moment. The holidays are coming up — please think about the spouses and children of our folks in uniform and lend a hand. If there are groups you know of who help with this, please leave some information about them in the comments. Thanks!]

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com