Tuesday, December 8, 2009

McChrystal Loves Eichenberry, EPA Is Trying To Kill Us

James Danly
Jonathan Vaccaro
Dana Milbank
Fred Kagan & William Kristol

"We were paralyzed by red tape, beaten by our own team. Our answer to Afghans seeking help was: “I can’t come today or tomorrow, but maybe next week. I have several bosses that I need to ask for permission.” - Jonathan Vaccaro
"So we say: Support the troops. Support the mission. Support the president." - Kagan & Kristol

All of the links above relate to the war in Afghanistan. The most interesting ones are the first two, written by soldiers instead of Generals. Jonathan Vaccaro illustrates the problems of an institutionalized bureaucracy running a war, that bogs down response times to all immediate and emergency situations. The counterinsurgency tactics may be wonderful and work marvelously, but the military bureaucracy may endanger it and make it fail, a lesson we haven't learned from Vietnam, evidently. I never thought that I'd ever include a link to either Fred Kagan or William Kristol because I have disagreed with most of their thinking over the last 10 years, so I surprise myself by including their opinion piece. Theirs is a back-handed compliment to the President: we support General McChrystal, therefore we support the President for also supporting McChrystal and his tactics.

Being stuck here in Colorado Springs in the snow, I miss out on a lot of entertainment, not getting to watch the interactions on Congressional investigation panels, or even White House events. Dana Milbank is my favorite fly on the wall, and he gives a good look at the recent ceremony at the State Department involving Colin Powell and the unveiling of his official portrait.

The big ticket today is when General McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry testify in front of both the House and Senate on the President's stated plan for Afghanistan. They traveled together here on a jet, but never sat together or talked to each other. There is a turf war going on between them, and both have been the victims of leaks to the press: “It would be fair to say that those two aren’t exactly in a happy place right now,” said a Pentagon official." But they must present a unified front before Congress even though: "... aides to General McChrystal said he was surprised and angered by Ambassador Eikenberry’s cables, especially since he had not voiced his reservations in their frequent meetings... For his part, the ambassador has been rankled since General McChrystal handed in his strategic assessment of Afghanistan to the White House without sharing it with him first, another official said. That report formed the basis of the general’s request for 40,000 troops."

The different approaches towards policy both men take, even though they both have been in charge of military affairs in Afghanistan, can be seen in their makeup, or lack thereof: "Lean and wiry, General McChrystal is known as an ascetic who operates on a few hours of sleep and usually eats just one meal a day. In Iraq, where he oversaw secret commando operations for five years, former intelligence officials say that he had an encyclopedic, even obsessive, knowledge about the habits of terrorists, and pushed his troops relentlessly to kill as many as possible.

Ambassador Eikenberry, a tall, broad-shouldered man, has degrees from Harvard and Stanford, as well as from Nanjing University in China. He speaks Chinese and has written on ancient Chinese military history. Though more comfortable in political circles than General McChrystal, he has a mixed reputation among soldiers, with some saying he can be high-handed." Oh well, I wonder if I can catch the hearing on C-span... Also TPM reports on the first attempt to help pay for the war: "Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) has formally introduced his war bonds bill, proposing to finance the Afghanistan surge and other military efforts through a targeted borrowing endeavor."

oh, I love that dirty water...
I wasn't even going to mention Afghanistan today because it gets tedious and depressing reading about war and its casualties. Even if I'm amazed that the protests in Iran are continuing, the depressing part is finding out that over 200 people have so far been arrested, and the violence seems to be escalating with every hysterical threat coming from government officials. If only we could resolve these conflicts as easily as closing a book...

One of the legacies from the Bush administration has been the amount of incompetent administrators that were hired and placed as monkeywrenches in the machine. Karl Rove was responsible for most of the most egregious hires in places like the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency, anyplace that he was conservatively opposed to. Unfortunately for us, those hack administrators are making us sick, and possibly killing us.

Last year the EPA announced that there were many cities whose water supply bore traces of methamphetamines and prescription drugs. I though this was cool, and suggested our local water utility could make some extra bucks by taking requests for the type of drugs people wanted to drink from their tap water. Now, the NY Times has gone over data from the EPA and found that in many other places: "... the water provided to more than 49 million people has contained illegal concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as dangerous bacteria often found in sewage." What's worse, EPA regulators were aware of each event as they occurred and didn't do anything about it. This has happened somewhere in every state since at least 2004. “The previous eight years provide a perfect example of what happens when political leadership fails to act to protect our health and the environment,”

The basic excuse for not pursuing the cities that were in violation at the time was: “There is significant reluctance within the E.P.A. and Justice Department to bring actions against municipalities, because there’s a view that they are often cash-strapped, and fines would ultimately be paid by local taxpayers,” said David Uhlmann, who headed the environmental crimes division at the Justice Department until 2007. "But some systems won’t come into compliance unless they are forced to,”

I know that the quality of drinking water here in Colorado Springs is one of the highest (sic) in the country, but for millions of others who get sick each year from drinking the crap that comes out of their taps, and their municipalities are too broke or too lazy or too corrupt to fix the situation, they are out of luck: “The same people who told us to ignore Safe Drinking Water Act violations are still running the divisions,” said one mid-level E.P.A. official. “There’s no accountability, and so nothing’s going to change.”

sportin' wood...
I sure am glad that our elected leaders who are slutpuppies like Mark Sanford, John Ensign, and John Edwards, have helped clear the way for Tiger Woods. Every day there are more waitresses coming out of the woodwork, all claiming to have had affairs with the Woodster, are we past nine or ten yet? Who knew he was such a horndog, or that there existed golf groupies? I understand that he's thinking of moving to Italy and running for Parliament... And now it seems that he is joining Rush Limbaugh in the exclusive club that blames his behavior on an addiction to pain pills...

late night political jokes:

"Well, let's see. I'm trying to sum up President Obama's first 11 months in office. He gave billions to Wall Street, cracked down on illegal immigrants getting health care, and he's sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. You know something? He may go down in history as our greatest Republican president ever." –Jay Leno

"President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress are now assembling a new jobs package. The area with the most job openings? White House security." –Jay Leno

"Oh, how is this for nerve? That White House party-crashing couple refused an invitation to testify before Congress today. Unbelievable. The one thing they actually get invited to, they don't show up." –Jay Leno

"This week, America's last living World War I veteran — a man named Frank Buckles, 108 years old — he said he would like to see a memorial in Washington, D.C. You know, when he gets back from Afghanistan." –Jay Leno

"Well, here's a very bizarre story. People act strangely this time of year. In Toledo, Ohio, a man attacked a Salvation Army bell ringer, grabbed his red kettle, threw it in the back of his truck, yelled, 'I hate Christmas,' and drove off. Here's my question. What is Dick Cheney doing in Toledo, Ohio?" –Jay Leno

"Police in Texas seized thousands of ecstasy tablets with pictures of Obama's face on them. Drug dealers chose Obama because the pills make you feel hope and change and then send you off to a faraway place." –Craig Ferguson

"It's been reported that President Obama's speech on Tuesday about Afghanistan helped give NBC its best ratings in a long time. So look out this spring for NBC's new shows, 'Afghanistan's Got Talent,' 'Law & Order: Kabul,' and 'The Tonight Show With Hamid O'Karzai.'" –Conan O'Brien

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