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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Planning Failures

President George W. Bush failed to plan -- or rather adopt the State Department's fully realized plan -- for the occupation of Iraq following the rapid military victory in 2003. General David Petraeus and his team failed to plan for the success of their sweeps in Baghdad (Sweeps in Iraq Cram Two Jails With Detainees, New York Times, March 28, 2007. Page: A1). Prisons are overwhelmed by the glut of prisoners.

Poor leadership is a terrible thing; it cascades down an organization and a country. The poor tone set by our President has infected the rest of Government. Surely that, in itself, is a strong argument for his resignation or impeachment.

Sent to New York Times

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mr Rumsfeld's Bus

The picture illustrating "The Secretary We Had" (New York Times Book Review, Review of Andrew Cockburn's Rumsfeld, March 25th 2007, Page 13) is symbolic of Mr Rumsfeld's leadership in the Iraq war.

Instead of travelling around in an unarmored Humvee like the troops he sent into harm's way Mr Rumsfeld travelled inside the secure shell of a heavily armored Rhino Runner (borrowed from a contractor).

Good leaders share the risks undertaken by their subordinates. Good leaders accept responsibility when things go wrong. Good leaders ensure that their subordinates have the resources needed to get the job done. Good leaders clarify what needs to be done to achieve the goal.

The top echelon of the Bush administration has failed in each of these aspect of leadership.

Sent to the New York Times Book Review

Jeff Jacoby

Your letter writer, Olga Merchant (Infidelity, politics: strange bedfellows, Globe, March 26, 2007, A 8), attacks Jeff Jacoby for his inconsistencies. It seem to me that, like the former governor, his views have "evolved," or perhaps been unintelligently redesigned.

Sent to Boston Globe

Patrick's failure to learn

Deval Patrick seems to have learned the wrong lesson from his mistakes (Bright Star of MAA. Tarnished by Lapses, Washington Post, Sunday, March 18, Page:A04). He is quoted as saying: that he realizes that he has to focus more on his image. "What I'm not interested in, but I have to get more interested in, is government by photo-op," he said.

That is not what his Massachusetts supporters want. What we want is for him to think through the consequences -- political and policy-wise -- of the decisions that he makes. He needs to avoid the groupthink that seems to have engulfed his successful team in the period since he took office.

We had enough photo-op governing from his predecessor -- his work-for-a-day candidate opportunities, his five minute subway ride to demonstrate that it was safe, and most appallingly, his playing "civil engineer' in the days after the Big Dig disaster. We want no more of that.

From Deval Patrick we want substance not just style.

Sent to Washington Post

Bush no longer affordable

We cannot afford to allow George W Bush to continue in his presidency.

Over the past six years he has almost destroyed America's standing in the world. He has destroyed several US government agencies: FEMA, the Justice Department, and he his doing his best to destroy the US Army and Marine Corps.

He must be stopped. If impeachment is the only way, then we must not hesitate to initiate the process now.

Sent to Boston Herald

Monday, March 19, 2007

General David Petraeus

I used to have a great deal of respect for General David Petraeus.

He did a very good job curbing insurgency in his sector of Iraq at the beginning of the occupation.

His Handbook on Counter-Insurgency is a superb analysis of the strategies and tactics needed in Iraq.

His credibility took a severe hit when he endorsed the Bush Administration mini-surge and agreed to take command in the field. After all, we now know that General Eric Shinseki was right in saying that about 300,000 troops would be needed to pacify a population the size of Iraq's.

This week, his credibility nose-dived to zero with his call for nearly 3,000 more troops.

It looks to me that we are entering a period of incremental escalation. Step by bloody step we are sending more and more young men and women into the quagmire that Iraq has become.

It is time to call a halt. If the President won't, then Congress must.

Sent to the New York Times

Friday, March 16, 2007


What is it they don't get?

We didn't want our ports managed from Dubai. We certainly don't want our Military Contractors managed from Dubai -- yes KBR is , as of this writing, still part of Halliburton.

Halliburton should stay in the USA.

Sent to New York Times

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hatfield, MA

I was surfing the web the other day and came across the web site of the town of Hatfield in Western Massachusetts. One of the first items on the site was The Athenian Oath. This stated:

The Athenian Oath

"We will never bring disgrace to this our town, by any act of dishonesty or cowardice, nor ever desert our suffering comrades in the ranks; we will fight for the ideals and sacred things of the town, both alone and with many; we will revere and obey the town's laws and do our best to incite a like respect in those above us who are prone to annul or set them at naught; we will strive unceasingly to quicken the public's sense of civic duty, thus in all these ways we will transmit this town not only less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us."

This resonated so strongly with me after our callous treatment of war veterans, our President who is all too ready to "annul or set them [the laws] at naught," and who seems unwilling to call on us to make the sacrifices needed to "transmit ..[this land] ... greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us."

Thank you Hatfield for a timely reminder of what we owe to each other and to our country.

Sent to the Boston Globe

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Pardon for Libby


I would accept a pardon for Lewis Libby .... on one condition:

That Vice President Cheney resign and be forbidden from giving advice -- direct or indirect -- to the President.

Sent to New York Times

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Supporting the Troops -- Pay for the War

Congressman Abercrombie does not go far enough in his analysis of the Bush military budget (On war costs, Bush is a master of disguise, Boston Globe, March 5, 2007; p: A9).

In addition to deciding what we pay for -- whether in the regular or supplementary budgets -- we have to decide how we are going to pay for the war.

It is not enough to pile deficit upon deficit. That way our children -- those currently fighting the war -- will have to pay for it too. That is unacceptable. Those of us on the home front -- what an archaic sounding term that is -- have to pick up the cost. It is time that we shared in our soldiers' sacrifices and put up the money for the war. Over four years of war, this administration has made no effort to get our participation. No campaigns to sell war bonds so the debt will at least be US owned, no attempt to raise taxes, though that would be a prudent response, nor any attempt to do what the British did in World War II where forced loans -- called post war credits were imposed on taxpayers. These loans were credited with a modest rate of interest and were, in fact, not redeemed until the lender retired. This last model might help with the retirement crisis that is going to hit in less than twenty years time.

Whichever route is chosen, it is time for the American people to support the troops in a meaningful way -- by paying for the war.
Sent to Boston Globe

Congressional To Do List

As you say, your must-do list is "hardly exhaustive" (The Must-Do List, New York Times, March 3, 2007, p:11 [Week in Review]).

I would add two things. First the Government has to make some effort to get us to start paying for this war. If we do not pay, then the cost will trickle down to our children and grand children -- the very people who are fighting this war. We must share in the sacrifice they are making -- paying for the war is the least that we can do.

Second, Congress must take some steps to limit the use of the State Secrets Defense. As you noted in June 2004, this Administration has been a frequent user of the defense (For example in the Edmonds, Arar, and el-Masri cases). Legislation that sets up a court where claimants could test the validity of the defense would be useful -- as it is, judges just have to accept the Government's word. And we know what that is worth these days -- as perhaps it was in 1953 when the doctrine was first promulgated.

Sent to the New York Times

A Sea Change in the Administration

What a change the past few months have wrought.

The Bush administration, which I have often criticized, is to be commended for:
- negotiating a settlement with North Korea
- agreeing to talks with Syria, Iran, and Iraq over the Middle East conflicts
- holding senior officials accountable for the mistakes at Walter Reed.

But we must mourn those six lost years of opportunity.

Sent to Washington Post

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Iraq War Resolution of 2002

I must respectfully disagree with Lincoln Chafee (The senate's forgotten Iraq choice, New York Times, March 1st, 2007; P: A21) that Senator Levin's bill would have been an appropriate substitute for the war resolution.

It is hard to remember the sequence of events back in 2002. Up until November 2002 (that is until the President had the support of Senate and House) the Iraqis refused to allow UN inspectors to undertake inspections for Weapons of Mass Destruction on Iraqi territory. By the end of November, inspections under the direction of Hans Blix were under way. The vote to grant the President war powers had achieved its purpose, the Iraq regime was being called to account for its actions. The bill proposed by Senator Levin would have been much weaker, hedged around with contingencies that would have tied the mailed fist firmly behind America's back and would have been unlikely to get any useful response from Saddam. The war resolution was a masterly example of realpolitik.

We have forgotten too that Hans Blix called on the US and Britain to give his inspectors the "hard intelligence" that they claimed to possess so that his inspectors could go to check out that information on the ground. The failure of the US and Britain to do so should have roused our suspicions that all was not well with the intelligence -- its invalidity has been amply demonstrated.

Where we went wrong -- the Senate, and the House, and the country, and all of us -- was the failure to recognize the importance of the inspector's reports in mid February 2003 that there was no evidence of immanent danger from Iraq -- no weapons of mass destruction had been found. That fact should have led to a re-evaluation of the war power resolution and its repeal based on the changed situation. We failed to do so and we are reaping the tragic consequences today.

Sent to the New York Times

Thursday, March 1, 2007

More on Walter Reed

I am appalled that the higher levels in the Army are blaming the problems at Walter Reed on the non-com's in charge of the buildings (At Walter Reed, 'We're Going to Fix It'. General Says He Will Oversee Repair of Soldiers' Lodging, Washington Post, Thursday, February 22, 2007; Page A06)

Who put those people there? Who trained them -- or didn't? Who failed to provide oversight? What ever happened to Command Responsibility?

As at Abu Ghraib, the senior officers look as if they will get off scot free while the squaddies carry the can.

This is one more example of an underlying malaise in Government today: there is no accountability. George Bush must be held responsible for creating the climate in which this failure of accountability occurred. He must do something to reaffirm managerial accountability or he can expect no good results from his new Iraq policy.

The author is a retired leadership researcher.
Sent to the Washington Post