Read the whole thing. A really amazing, touching report on the Marine Bravo Company (1st batallion, 8th Marines) and their fight for Fallujah. Stories like this are few and far between, and really bring home the scenes on the ground and the bravery of our troops...along with the gore, confusion, sacrifice, and artifice of urban warfare. The cited passage is only one small fragment of this insightful piece. For or against the war, I can't overemphasize that you should read the entire article by Dexter Filkins of the NYT.

In Falluja, Young Marines Saw the Savagery of an Urban War

ALLUJA, Iraq, Nov. 18 - Eight days after the Americans entered the city on foot, a pair of marines wound their way up the darkened innards of a minaret, shot through with holes by an American tank.

As the marines inched upward, a burst of gunfire rang down, fired by an insurgent hiding in the top of the tower. The bullets hit the first marine in the face, his blood spattering the marine behind him. The marine in the rear tumbled backward down the stairwell, while Lance Cpl. William Miller, age 22, lay in silence halfway up, mortally wounded.

"Miller!" the marines called from below. "Miller!"

With that, the marines' near mystical commandment against leaving a comrade behind seized the group. One after another, the young marines dashed into the minaret, into darkness and into gunfire, and wound their way up the stairs.

After four attempts, Corporal Miller's lifeless body emerged from the tower, his comrades choking and covered with dust. With more insurgents closing in, the marines ran through volleys of machine-gun fire back to their base.

Somebody Tell Melissa Etheridge!

BothSides Magazine: "Proponents of the homosexual lifestyle argue that as race is merely a byproduct of inherited genes, so is homosexuality. The weakness of this position is that people of color reproduce and pass on the DNA that makes the skin brown; however, homosexuals cannot reproduce. If homosexuality is a genetic trait and homosexuals were true to their orientation, the trait would have virtually disappeared over the ages. Nature does not perpetuate homosexuality."


Moral Swampland


The New York Times > Business > Media & Advertising > Many Who Voted for 'Values' Still Like Their Television Sin: "Desperate Housewives' on ABC is the big new hit of the television season, ranked second over all in the country, behind only 'C.S.I.' on CBS. This satire of suburbia and modern relationships features, among other morally challenged characters, a married woman in her 30's having an affair with a high-school-age gardener, and has prompted several advertisers, including Lowe's, to pull their advertisements.

In the greater Atlanta market, reaching more than two million households, 'Desperate Housewives' is the top-rated show. Nearly 58 percent of the voters in those counties voted for President Bush.

And in the Salt Lake City market, which takes in the whole state of Utah and parts of Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming, 'Desperate Housewives' is fourth, after two editions of 'C.S.I.' and NBC's 'E.R.'; Mr. Bush rolled up 72.6 percent of the vote there.

'We say one thing and do another,' said Kevin Reilly, the president of NBC Entertainment. 'People compartmentalize about their lives and their entertainment choices.' "


From the Inept Analogy Dept.

Because people climbing on H3s is the same thing as people in H3s running over people? Tortured.

Hummer foes take message to auto show / Protesters see link between war, Americans driving gas guzzlers:

Attitudes toward the protesters became somewhat less supportive when about 10 demonstrators entered the Moscone Center and marched through the exhibition chanting "Driving a Hummer Is Driving Us to War," as they climbed aboard a prototype of a 2006 H3 Hummer. The vehicle was parked on a platform intended to be off limits to the public.

"'I think they're a bunch of morons,' said Mike Silva of Riverbank (Stanislaus County) as he watched the Code Pink protesters celebrate the news. 'It's cool if you want to protest outside, but coming in here and bothering people who just want to enjoy the show is crossing the line. It's not like I went and drove a big truck over them.' "

Insurgency to Blame for Rapid Deterioration of Iraqi Children's Health?
That's certainly one way to think about it. I think it's only a facet. If there'd been better post-war planning and solid thinking about how to deal with a guerilla insurgency, this wouldn't be such a huge problem.

Children Pay Cost of Iraq's Chaos (washingtonpost.com)

BAGHDAD -- Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government.

After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to a study conducted by Iraq's Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway's Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from "wasting," a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.
Violence has also driven away international aid agencies that brought expertise to Iraq following the U.S. invasion.

Since a truck bombing at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad killed more than 20 people last year, U.N. programs for Iraq have operated from neighboring Jordan. Doctors Without Borders, a group known for its high tolerance for risk and one of several that helped revive Iraq's Health Ministry in the weeks after the invasion, evacuated this fall.


Not That There's Anything Wrong With That....

Geez, I wish Wolcott would post as often as Atrios does.

James Wolcott: Rice and No Beans: "I can exclusively report what finally drove Powell over the brink. Yes, he was bummed by years of being backstabbed by the neocon hawks, most of whom spent Vietnam masturbating in their dorm rooms. But the last straw was seeing and hearing Thomas Friedman on Tim Russert's CNBC weekend show, channeling Bush's voice to advocate that Powell devote himself exclusively to negotiating a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israelis--that he be dispatched to the Middle East deal and not to be allowed to return home until he had one, even if it took a year. "



Love the "who's on first?" discussion here. He'd never intended to stay and would've stayed if asked but he wasn't so he left. Although, uh, not being asked to stay is also sort of the same thing as being asked to leave, right?

CNN.com - Colin Powell submits resignation - Nov 15, 2004:
"Bush accepted the resignation Friday, Powell said, adding, 'It has always been my intention that I would serve one term.'

But a senior State Department official characterized Powell's departure this way: 'He was not asked to stay.'

For months Powell said he served at the pleasure of the president, suggesting he might stay if asked. 'That didn't happen,' the senior official said. But the official also said Powell 'never asked to stay and was never asked to leave.'"


Theatrical Micromilitarism: Say It 3 Times Fast

Wolcott's such a deft, barbed writer. Glad his blog is updated so regularly.

James Wolcott: On Borrowed Time: "The US assault on Fallujah is a prime example of what Todd calls 'theatrical micromilitarism.' I mean, calling it 'Operation Phantom Fury'--it's a sick joke. What's 'phantom' about it? For months the US has been touting this incursion and publicly built up forces outside the city for weeks, giving the enemy plenty of time to rig explosives and/or skip town. Billing it as a 'decisive battle'--another fraud. Guerrilla warfare operates on an entirely different set of rules; as has been oft pointed out, America won every major battle during Vietnam and still lost. What's unfolding is not a decisive moment but a ghastly production that trains hellfire on a symbolic target and 'plays well' to American citizens as a flex of muscle, as witness the NY Post cover today of an American soldier with a cigarette dangling from his mouth with the headline 'Marlboro Men Kick Butt.' Civilian casualties, the destruction of homes and livelihoods, the absence of any significant capture of insurgent ringleaders, these are secondary to getting good action footage over which benedictions can be said. "


The full text of OBL's recent tape


Now That We Are All Safe, He May Go

Astounding. How could one take this out of context, I'm wondering?

MSNBC - Ashcroft, Evans resign from Bush's Cabinet: "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved," Ashcroft wrote in a five-page handwritten letter to Bush, adding that he believed that the Justice Department "would be well served by new leadership and fresh inspiration" and that "my energies and talents should be directed toward other challenging horizons."

Omitting the Inconvenient Points

David Frum's Diary on National Review Online: "For days before the U.S. election, Marines and Iraqi troops massed around the city of Fallujah. As the voters arrived at the booths, they knew that their ballots would determine the whole future course of the war in Iraq. With everything at stake, they cast those ballots for George Bush.

Now the battle has begun. What is to come we cannot know. But we can know this: Fully aware of the stakes, American voters massively rejected the candidate who promised to put an end to battles like Fallujah--and massively voted in the candidate who pledged to do whatever was necessary to win these battles. "

Nowhere in this article does Frum note that the Fallujah battle was held back until after the election. Was that just to see whether voters wanted it to happen or not? I think not.

Fake Confusion

One of the things I find most interesting about David Brooks is his reliance on a seemingly earnest befuddlement to make his points. He'll say that he's confused about something that he's not actually confused about at all, and then slyly slip in what his conclusion at the outset was and pretend like he just got there.

In the article below, he bemoans how out of touch us liberal folks are with the 'exurbs' and those who live there. These are people like the Bay Area's 'supercommuter,' people who buy a new home in a not-quite-finished outer suburb, say in Tracy, and spend 2 hours a day driving to jobs in places like San Francisco. There are a lot of reasons to do this, but the only one that makes sense to me is that the housing is relatively cheap.

So Brooks is bemoaning the fact that his book was ABOUT these people but that, for a variety of reasons, he couldn't do readings or promotional appearances in these exurban environments because 'civic life as yet is so spare.' In the next graf, he goes to talk about a reading in Berkeley (probably at Cody's), and how surprised he is to hear that the employees at the store are unfamiliar with Rick Warren's popular "Purpose-Driven Life," which is all about how Jesus has a plan for us and is apparently a hit in the exurbs, in the big-box stores.

Isn't there something ironic about this? Brooks, complaining that at stores he could do readings that none of the folks he was writing about were there? Maybe he should do an all WalMart tour next time. It doesn't take Karl Rove to figure that one out, right? In Berkeley, people who aren't like the people Brooks is writing about want to listen to him speak. Out in the exurbs, they are more interested in reading about how Jesus has a big plan for them. How can Brooks miss this?

I haven't read any of Brooks's books, but I think he's dancing around the point when he says that the exurbs/suburbs have 'spare' or spartan culture. My parents live in the suburbs down on the peninsula near SF and 'spartan' is the biggest euphemism for the culture down there. 'Bland to nonexistent' would be a better word, and their suburb has been there for 30 years. It's a mass of pavement and minimalls, where you absolutely have to drive nearly everywhere, and it sucks.

(Aside: 'exurb' is such a great word. Does it mean 'extended suburb,' or does it mean 'ex-urban residents'?)

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Take a Ride to Exurbia: "I couldn't figure out how to tell the people in exurbia that I had written a book about them. Here I was writing about places like Loudoun County, Va., and Polk County, Fla., but my book tour took me to places like downtown Philadelphia, downtown Seattle and the Upper West Side. The places I was writing about are so new, and civic life is as yet so spare, there are few lecture series or big libraries to host author talks. The normal publishing infrastructure is missing."



Friedman says it better than I could.

The New York Times > Opinion > Friedman: Two Nations Under God:

"My problem with the Christian fundamentalists supporting Mr. Bush is not their spiritual energy or the fact that I am of a different faith. It is the way in which he and they have used that religious energy to promote divisions and intolerance at home and abroad. I respect that moral energy, but wish that Democrats could find a way to tap it for different ends.

'The Democrats have ceded to Republicans a monopoly on the moral and spiritual sources of American politics,' noted the Harvard University political theorist Michael J. Sandel. 'They will not recover as a party until they again have candidates who can speak to those moral and spiritual yearnings - but turn them to progressive purposes in domestic policy and foreign affairs.'"

3% Ain't a Mandate

But don't bother trying to tell Bush that. In the last four years he's governed as if he had a mandate, pushing hard-right causes through into reality and making few compromises. Clearly taking his 3% popular vote win as a "mandate," he's running on to other items he couldn't have achieved when fearing re-election. It's gonna be a pretty rough four years for Dems and progressives.

As mydd.com notes,
This is the largest number of people who have ever voted AGAINST a president

At 80% approval after 9-11 and guaranteed a landslide election by prognosticators 2 years ago, only half the country supports him

via SFGate: Bush Sketches 2nd Term Agenda

Bush fielded questions after securing re-election in a campaign framed by the war in Iraq and economic issues at home. Nearly complete returns gave him 51 percent of the popular vote -- a contrast to 2000, when he lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College.
"I earned capital in the campaign and now I intend to spend it," Bush said. "And I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I would spend it on."
"I will reach out to every one who shares our goals."
"In a victory speech late Wednesday, Bush said reaching his goals 'will require the broad support of Americans.' He asked Kerry's disappointed supporters to back him -- even though many of his proposals are anathema to those who opposed his re-election. "



Wonkette: "Wonkette Answers: Where and How To Drink #
6:05 p.m.
"This is my first election in Washington. What to do? I went to Local 16 last weekend, and when I realized you weren't there, it was super-lame! Should I go to ESPNZone to ride out the night, or maybe hit the Pharmacy Bar to avoid it?'

Local 16 is a fine institution and I will not have you slander it. Except when it's taken over by the Princeton Young Alumni Association, in which case, don't just slander it, but go throw lukewarm Jell-o on the patrons. It would be a bad place to hit tonight, as there are no TVs. We say go for broke or don't go at all: Either crash the DNC party at the Capitol Hilton (go with a large enough entourage and people will just assume you're Terry McAuliffe). Or don't go at all. We, in fact, prefer the DIY approach: Getting blitzed on bourbon while watching Chris Matthews try to hold it together."


What Part of "Yes" Do You Not Understand??

I'm not saying Greenhouse isn't wrong here or that it's not possible that Halliburton wasn't absolutely the best corp to do the job. But doesn't something seem really fishy here? Read the whole article.

Yahoo! News - Halliburton Contracts Bypassed Objections:

"In fall 2002, a group of top Pentagon (news - web sites) civilian officials began meeting to plan how best to prevent the destruction of oil wells and infrastructure in the days after an invasion.

They decided to give Halliburton a job worth $1.9 million as part of an existing contract to draw up a plan to protect the oil infrastructure. An Army lawyer at the time objected to the decision, saying it was outside the scope of the contract.

The lawyer was overruled by a higher-up in the Pentagon's Office of General Counsel. But the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, later determined the lawyer was correct, according to testimony given before Congress.
Once Halliburton had drawn up the plan, the Army Corps decided in March 2003 to award Halliburton the contract to carry it out. Greenhouse objected, saying it was against usual contracting procedures to award a job to the company that had drawn up plans for it, Kohn said.

Greenhouse also objected to the presence of KBR officials at meetings where Army Corps officials were discussing the award of the contract, according to the documents. Later, she objected when the government proposed making the 'sole-source' contract awarded without bidding for five years instead of a more limited period. "

Perish the Thought

LA Times: After 4 Years, Bush Is No Closer to Building a GOP Majority

Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, a leading conservative political action committee, said that "if Bush wins, I actually think he'll be more conservative than he was in his first term, because he doesn't have to face the voters again."

If true...it's sort of ludicrous to contemplate what this could entail. I mean sure, martial law, yeah, but...

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