The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Friday, September 24, 2004

OUR POLITICAL CULTURE -- Summed up in a single cartoon.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

In a shock announcement that will reverberate through broadcast journalism, CNN has acknowledged that it can no longer vouch for the authenticity of host Wolf Blitzer.

After months of being buffeted by accusations and speculation, CNN subjected Blitzer to a series of forensic tests over the weekend and determined that his beard is a polyfiber synthetic and his lack of affect was attributable to a defective chip insecurely fitted into his fliptop head.

"Though we regret learning Wolf Blitzer is animatronic," said CNN chief Bip Peterson, "this in no way undermines the integrity of the journalism he did for the network, or CNN's commitment to the reelection of George Bush."

Speculation now turns to CNN's Judy Woodruff, rumored for years to be a stick-figure pictogram, despite fierce denials from colleagues who claim to have ridden the elevator with her.

"Judy, Wolf, Larry King--none of them are real," says a former intern at the network who still has nightmares.
I have James Wolcott on my blogroll [to the right] for a reason. Check him out.

CARNAGE -- Bombings and fighting across Iraq left over 20 people dead and more than 150 wounded today.

Meanwhile, an al-Qaeda-linked group led by the terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi beheaded Jack Hensely, an American taken hostage in Iraq recently. Earlier, the group murdered American Eugene Armstrong in a similar fashion and is threatening to do the same to a British hostage they currently hold.

And if all that isn't enough...
Earlier Wednesday, a car bomb exploded outside an ice-cream shop where Iraqi National Guard recruits were standing. Authorities said 11 died and 50 were wounded in the suicide-attack, one of numerous deadly assaults by insurgents on Iraqi security forces and recruits.

In Baghdad, the U.S. military announced the death of another soldier, who was caught in an attack on a U.S. combat patrol Wednesday morning in Tikrit in western Iraq.

And in the Sadr City stronghold of Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, U.S. aircraft and tanks hit insurgent positions, killing 10 and wounding 92. Fighting flared in Sadr City Wednesday apparently in response to a raid by U.S. forces on Sadr's offices in Najaf and the arrest Tuesday of several Sadr aides.

Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, complained Wednesday that the raid contravened a peace deal brokered by Sistani last month to end fighting in the holy city of Najaf, wire services reported. "This step is considered contrary to the peace initiative on whose basis the Najaf crisis was solved," a statement issued by Sistani's office in Najaf said.
Amidst all this blood, the Bush administration is now feuding with its Iraqi puppet government.
Confusing the hostage situation Wednesday were conflicting reports about the possible release of one of the female prisoners whose freedom is being demanded by the Zarqawi group.

In the morning, the Iraqi Ministry of Justice said it would release Taha, insisting that the announcement had no connection with the Zarqawi demands.

Later in the day, however, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said that that the women "are in our legal and physical custody. They will not be released imminently. Their legal status, like the other detainees, is under constant review." A source familiar with the situation left open the possibility that one of the women might be released on bail but said there was no timetable on that action.

Following the embassy statement, Iraq's national security adviser, Kassim Daoud, said that Iraqi judges have ordered the conditional release of three prisoners in U.S. custody, including one of two women held by U.S. forces. Daoud told a news conference that the release would be conditional and would not happen for a few days, according to news services.

"Iraqi judges decided to release them because they didn't have any evidence. The judges decided on a conditional release. It will not happen today, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow," he said.

Finally, interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said in an interview with The Associated Press from New York, that no decision had been made to free any prisoners.

"We have not been negotiating and we will not negotiate with terrorists on the release of hostages," Allawi said.
Got that? The Iraqi government says the women are to be released. The U.S. government says they are not to be released. The Iraqi Prime Minister says they might be released.

And these are the people in charge of the war over there. Explains a lot.

KING FOR KERRY -- Former independent Maine Governor Angus King voted for George W. Bush in 2000, but he now admits that was a mistake and is endorsing John Kerry for president in 2004.
King, a one-time Democrat who became an independent before his first run for governor in 1994, said he has not publicly endorsed a presidential candidate in the past quarter century. But he said "the case for change is overwhelming" as Bush seeks a second term.
"I think the country is in the most significant danger in my lifetime," said King, 60. "I wouldn't be here unless I thought there was a grave threat to the future of the country."
Poor economic policy and disastrous fiscal policy played a part in Governor's King's decision to back Kerry over Bush.
"To be building deficits at the same time we're facing known deficits in Social Security and Medicare I think is irresponsible," King said.

He noted that the Bush administration is cutting taxes while boosting government spending through the creation of a costly but unfunded Medicare prescription-drug benefit.

"Our generation is buying things that we want and passing the bill on to the next generation," King said. "That's wrong. It's irresponsible. And I think it verges on being immoral."
But the deciding factor in pushing Governor King from Mr Bush to Senator Kerry is the worsening debacle in Iraq.
King said he disagrees with Bush on several domestic issues, including the environment, energy and education. But he said those differences did not persuade him to endorse Kerry. What prompted him to do so are what King called the administration's mishandling of the war in Iraq and projections that the federal deficit will total billions or even trillions of dollars within a few years.
King said the available evidence suggests that Bush decided to invade Iraq in early 2001, even before the terrorist attacks that occurred that September. He said the administration used intelligence selectively to justify the war in Iraq, which has produced no weapons of mass destruction, no Iraqi nuclear program and no link between deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaida terrorist network.

"The principal rationalization for the invasion now seems to be that we got rid of a bloodthirsty dictator," King said.

By invading Iraq on such a pretext, King said, Bush has inaugurated a poorly planned policy that has killed more than 1,000 Americans and injured another 7,000, alienated the Muslim world, antagonized America's allies elsewhere in the world and created a "recruiting dream" for terrorists.

"The result is a real disaster in American foreign policy," King said.
After meeting with Senator Kerry recently to sound him out on various policy issues, Governor King came away impressed. Kerry's record as a war hero and successful prosecutor also played a part in King's endorsement, he said.

That's good old-fashioned common sense American and Maine values coming out of the mouth of Governor Angus King. Good news for the good guys.

BELTWAY BANDIT NFL POWER POLL: WEEK 3 -- It’s week three and the Power Poll is already in midseason form. We’ve overcome a few pulled hamstrings and the odd groin pull [and those are always odd]. We’re ready to answer the bell. Kick it up a notch. Step up to the plate. Give it a 110 percent. Ah, just roll the tape.

01. New England Patriots [2-0]: 17 wins in a row. [No change]

02. Philadelphia Eagles [2-0]: Since Halloween 2003 Donovan McNabb has been the best player in the NFL. [No change]

03. Seattle Seahawks [2-0]: New “Half-Caf Latte Tuesday” proving popular with defensive players. And it shows. [No change]
04. Indianapolis Colts [1-1]: Gutsy win on the road in Tennessee proves Colts are for real. How will they do without Edgerrin James for a few weeks? [+2]

05. Minnesota Vikings [1-1]: Loaded with talent, but gave away Monday night game in Philadelphia with penalties and costly turnovers. [-1]

06. New York Jets [2-0]: This team knows how to play offense. Jets fans don’t know how to spell it. [+4]

07. Tennessee Titans [1-1]: TB Chris Brown is the real deal, but the Titans must find a way to beat Peyton Manning and the Colts. Maybe it’s time for Head Coach Jeff Fisher to listen to my Peyton Manning Voodoo Doll ideas. [-1]

08. Green Bay Packers [1-1]: For the Packers they will always be the Chicago Bugbears. [-3]

09. Carolina Panthers [1-1]: TB DeShaun Foster gives a dominant performance and the Cats get back in the top ten. [+4]

10. Baltimore Ravens [1-1]: Pittsburgh QB Tommy Maddox only the latest to be chewed up and spit out by Ravens defense. [+4]

11. Denver Broncos [1-1]: Mike Shanahan ’s famous offense completely dominated by the…[-3]

12. Jacksonville Jaguars [2-0]: After completely shutting down the high-powered the Broncos, the Jaguars can lay claim to the best defense in the NFL. Now, if they can only get their offense to score a few points. [+5]

13. Detroit Lions [2-0]: QB Joey Harrington actually playing smart football. Next week: Hell freezes over. [+5]

14. Atlanta Falcons [2-0]: Michael Vick. [+6]

15. Dallas Cowboys [1-1]: Ditching Quincy Carter for Vinnie Testaverde turning out to be a godsend for the Cowboys. You don’t think Parcells spiked Carter’s drug test, do you? Nah, not even Parcells would do that. Probably. [+1]

16. St. Louis Rams [1-1]: Defense repeatedly violated by Michael Vick. Let’s hope he was a gentleman and bought them dinner first. [-5]

17. Kansas City Chiefs [0-2]: This is their last chance. One more loss and I drop these guys like yesterday’s newspaper. Oh, wait. I just did. [-8]

18. Washington Redskins [1-1]: From now on, Redskins will save time by using FedEx to deliver turnovers directly to opposing teams. Relax, it’s FedEx. [-6]

19. Cincinnati Bengals [1-1]: Pitching-poor Cincinnati Reds would like to know if QB Carson Palmer is available for work during the week. [+5]

20. New Orleans Saints [1-1] How do you win a game and still drop five places in the world’s most prestigious power poll? Well, if you’re the Saints you play no defense and barely win a home game against a lousy team like the 49ers. And now TB Deuce McAllister is out for at least a month? This team is ready to drop faster than a tank top on Bourbon Street . [-5]

21. Chicago Bears [1-1]: Naturally, as soon as I knock TB Thomas Jones he has the best game of his career. Maybe I’ll spend this week beating up on Patrick Ramsey. That shouldn’t be too difficult. [+10]

22. New York Giants [1-1]: If these guys can get a +6 advantage in turnovers every week they should be fine. [+10]

23. Oakland Raiders [1-1]: Norv just “forgot” about Jerry Rice, eh? Let’s hope Jerry doesn’t “forget” to brake the next time he sees Norv crossing the street. [+2]

24. Buffalo Bills [0-2]: If TB Willis McGahee is so keen on being a starter, maybe he should try quarterback. Who would notice the difference? [-5]

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [0-2]: Give the fans a glimpse of Chris Simms and then name boring ol’ Brad Johnson your starting quarterback again. Oh, Chucky, you’re such a tease! [-4]

26. San Diego Chargers [1-1]: I haven’t seen a Marty Schottenheimer defense play this badly since…last year. [No change]

27. Cleveland Browns [1-1]: Welcome back to Earth, guys. You still suck. [-5]

28. Pittsburgh Steelers [0-2]: The season is trashed anyway, so just throw big Ben in there and see what happens. Sure, he’ll get beaten up a bit, but I grew up with two older brothers. What am I supposed to do, feel sorry for him?

29. Houston Texans [0-2]: Isn’t Dom Capers supposed to be a defensive-minded coach? So where’d he put his defense? [-2]

30. Miami Dolphins [0-2]: Not getting blown out. Not winning either. [-2]

31. San Francisco 49ers [0-2]: Offense finally shows up just as the defense is hitting the showers. [-1]

32. Arizona Cardinals [0-2]: It’s going to take some time, Dennis. [-3]

DIRE RUMBLINGS -- "If anyone was waiting to find out whether Antarctica would respond quickly to climate warming, I think the answer is yes."
--Ted Scambos, National Snow and Ice Data Center

That is the bad news coming from U.S. scientists who are studying shifting glaciers in the far south of the world.
The collapse of an Antarctic ice shelf two years ago has accelerated the flow of glaciers into the nearby Weddell Sea

The Larsen B ice shelf probably blocked the glaciers' progress before its collapse in 2002, but now they are able to deposit their loads more freely.

US researchers say the findings, which come from satellite data, provide evidence that climate change is bringing major changes to Antarctica.
Two papers published by U.S. scientists reveal that "for the first time, the relationship between ice shelf collapses caused by climate warming, and accelerated glacier flow," said Dr Eric Rignot of the US space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.

IDIOT QUOTE OF THE DAY...ONE YEAR LATER -- "A year from now I'd be surprised if there's not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush."

-- Richard Perle at the American Enterprise Institute, 22 September 2003

Kudos to for, well, catching it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

CHICKENHAWKS PLAN MORE WARS -- As we regard the catastrophic backwash of Mr Bush's ill-considered Iraq War, a reasonable man would conclude that no sane administration could seriously consider another such adventure. However, as is so often the case in George W. Bush's America, the reasonable man would be wrong.

While Iraq burns, the mullahs of Iran plan a slow takeover of their neighbor and seek to bolster their strength with atomic weaponry. Iran has always been far more dangerous than Iraq [a fact the neocons couldn't grasp until it was too late], but it would be far more dangerous armed with Oppenheimer's doomsday machine. Can the U.S. do anything about it? Well, as usual, Bush administration chickenhawks have an idea and, as usual, it's a very bad one.
"The U.S. capability to make a mess of Iran's nuclear infrastructure is formidable," says veteran Mideast analyst Geoffrey Kemp. "The question is, what then?" NEWSWEEK has learned that the CIA and DIA have war-gamed the likely consequences of a U.S. pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. No one liked the outcome. As an Air Force source tells it, "The war games were unsuccessful at preventing the conflict from escalating."

Instead, administration hawks are pinning their hopes on regime change in Tehran—by covert means, preferably, but by force of arms if necessary. Papers on the idea have circulated inside the administration, mostly labeled "draft" or "working draft" to evade congressional subpoena powers and the Freedom of Information Act. Informed sources say the memos echo the administration's abortive Iraq strategy: oust the existing regime, swiftly install a pro-U.S. government in its place (extracting the new regime's promise to renounce any nuclear ambitions) and get out. This daredevil scheme horrifies U.S. military leaders, and there's no evidence that it has won any backers at the cabinet level.
The situation has become so dire and the Bush administration's incompetence so obvious and perilous, that even Republicans on Capitol Hill are noticing.
Some members of President George W. Bush's own party are throwing up their hands at such clumsy doings. "This administration's nonproliferation strategy consists of flailing around with a two-by-four," says one disgusted Republican elder statesman.
The history of the Bush administration, though, is that it will refuse to be deterred from its darkest wishes, regardless of the consequences. With Iraq in the state it is in now another attack in the region, this time against a much more powerful foe in Iran, would be an unmitigated disaster. While some may comfort themselves in the knowledge that this danger is so obvious there is no way the Bush administration could plunge in without thinking ahead, those who have carefully observed this White House for the last three-and-a-half years know that it has never been dissuaded by facts. Why should it be now?

GEORGE W. BUSH: AL QAEDA RECRUITER -- The British ambassador to Italy is in hot water with the Foreign Office for telling the truth.
The Foreign Office in London has been thrown into turmoil after the British ambassador to Rome, Sir Ivor Roberts, described US President George Bush as "the best recruiting sergeant ever for al-Qaeda".

His comment, made at a closed conference of about 100 British and Italian diplomats, politicians and journalists in Tuscany, was leaked to an Italian newspaper, provoking embarrassment in London.

According to one of those present, Sir Ivor had been taking part in a discussion on who Europeans would back if they had a vote in the US election. The ambassador said they would vote for Senator John Kerry, but some people would want Mr Bush, not least al-Qaeda.

"If anyone is ready to celebrate the eventual re-election of Bush, it's al-Qaeda, whereas it is clear that the Palestinians hope that a Kerry victory will unblock the situation," he said.
Why does Ivor Roberts hate freedom?!

NO WORDS FOR IT -- Mr Bush said this during his address to the U.N. General Assembly this morning:
The democratic hopes we see growing in the Middle East are growing everywhere.
Pardon? Pardon? Is this man even vaguely familiar with what is going on in the world today or does he just not even care to attempt to conceal his lies anymore? Freedom growing everywhere? Mr Bush's closest allies in the Middle East are all thuggish dictatorships and theocracies. Mr Bush's good pal Vladimir Putin has essentially made himself tsar of the new Russian Empire. Where is this steady march of freedom Mr Bush speaks of? In Iraq? Is he the only person left alive who still thinks Iraq can have real and meaningful elections in January 2005?

I have no words to adequately describe the unreality of Mr Bush's speech. Delusional does not do it justice.

UK CUTS, RUNS -- The British are going! The British are going! Amid all the tough talk about "staying the course" and toughing it out in Iraq, Mr Bush's last important ally, Prime Minister Tony Blair, is looking to get out of Iraq.
The British Army is to start pulling troops out of Iraq next month despite the deteriorating security situation in much of the country, The Observer has learnt.

The main British combat force in Iraq, about 5,000-strong, will be reduced by around a third by the end of October during a routine rotation of units.

The news came amid another day of mayhem in Iraq, which saw a suicide bomber kill at least 23 people and injure 53 in the northern city of Kirkuk. The victims were queueing to join Iraq's National Guard.

More than 200 people were killed last week in one of the bloodiest weeks since last year's invasion, strengthening impressions that the country is spinning out of control.
The forthcoming 'drawdown' of British troops in Basra has not been made public and is likely to provoke consternation in both Washington and Baghdad. Many in Iraq argue that more, not fewer, troops are needed. Last week British troops in Basra fought fierce battles with Shia militia groups.
Troop numbers are being finalised, but, military sources in Iraq and in Whitehall say, they are likely to be 'substantially less' than the current total in Basra: the new combat brigade will have five or even four battle groups, against its current strength of six battle groups of around 800 men.

A military spokesman in Basra confirmed the scaling back of the British commitment.
The Coalition of the Willing has turned into the Coalition of the Disillusioned. The Brits have had their fill of fighting Shiite insurgents. Who then will take their place? More Americans?

"WE'VE LOST" -- The Nation journalist David Corn appeared on Fox News over the weekend to discuss Dan Rather and whatnot, but he says the real news was made once he left the studio.
While leaving the bureau, I ran into an acquaintance who is a former military officer. He is a rather knowledgeable chap about Iraq, who has been there several times since the invasion, and he has many contacts and friends within the highest ranks of the Pentagon. What do you think of the latest news from Iraq? I asked him. "We've lost," he said without pause. Lost? Yes, he said, adding, "but this is not just my view." He told me that the previous day he had been visiting with a pal who is a top commanding officer of the Special Forces. My friend told this commander that he had concluded the United States was a goner in Iraq. The reply: "I knew this was lost five months ago." Oh shit, my friend thought and waited for the explanation. The commander explained that back then he was driving the six-mile stretch that runs from the Green Zone in Baghdad (where the US diplomatic and military offices are headquartered) to the Baghdad airport. An IED went off and took out the car in front of him. "If we cannot secure the road to the airport, we cannot win this thing," the commander told my friend. After recounting this conversation to me, my friend said, "A bomb went off today on the road to the airport."
The catastrophe in Iraq has become so clear that even loyal GOP senators can no longer keep their counsel and smile for the cameras. Mr Bush, however, as his execrable speech to the U.N. General Assembly this morning demonstrated yet again, continues to deny the mess he has made in Iraq. Thus far a compliant media has helpfully pushed Iraq as far back from the forefront as they dare, but events in that sad country seem determined to break through the wall of noise thrown up around Mr Bush by the chattering class.

Monday, September 20, 2004

ANTI-BUSH SOLDIERS IN IRAQ -- The White House and its servants in the media like to portray our soldiers in Iraq as a solid bloc of supporters for George W. Bush. The truth, as this story in the Christian Science Monitor makes clear, is quite a bit more complicated.
Inside dusty, barricaded camps around Iraq, groups of American troops in between missions are gathering around screens to view an unlikely choice from the US box office: "Fahrenheit 9-11," Michael Moore's controversial documentary attacking the commander-in-chief.

"Everyone's watching it," says a Marine corporal at an outpost in Ramadi that is mortared by insurgents daily. "It's shaping a lot of people's image of Bush."

The film's prevalence is one sign of a discernible countercurrent among US troops in Iraq - those who blame President Bush for entangling them in what they see as a misguided war. Conventional wisdom holds that the troops are staunchly pro-Bush, and many are. But bitterness over long, dangerous deployments is producing, at a minimum, pockets of support for Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry, in part because he's seen as likely to withdraw American forces from Iraq more quickly.

"[For] 9 out of 10 of the people I talk to, it wouldn't matter who ran against Bush - they'd vote for them," said a US soldier in the southern city of Najaf, seeking out a reporter to make his views known. "People are so fed up with Iraq, and fed up with Bush."

With only three weeks until an Oct. 11 deadline set for hundreds of thousands of US troops abroad to mail in absentee ballots, this segment of the military vote is important - symbolically, as a reflection on Bush as a wartime commander, and politically, as absentee ballots could end up tipping the balance in closely contested states.
Whether representing pockets of opposition to Bush or something bigger, soldiers and marines on Iraq's front lines can be impassioned in their criticism. One Marine officer in Ramadi who had lost several men said he was thinking about throwing his medals over the White House wall.

"Nobody I know wants Bush," says an enlisted soldier in Najaf, adding, "This whole war was based on lies." Like several others interviewed, his animosity centered on a belief that the war lacked a clear purpose even as it took a tremendous toll on US troops, many of whom are in Iraq involuntarily under "stop loss" orders that keep them in the service for months beyond their scheduled exit in order to keep units together during deployments.

"There's no clear definition of why we came here," says Army Spc. Nathan Swink, of Quincy, Ill. "First they said they have WMD and nuclear weapons, then it was to get Saddam Hussein out of office, and then to rebuild Iraq. I want to fight for my nation and for my family, to protect the United States against enemies foreign and domestic, not to protect Iraqi civilians or deal with Sadr's militia," he said.

Specialist Swink, who comes from a family of both Democrats and Republicans, plans to vote for Kerry. "Kerry protested the war in Vietnam. He is the one to end this stuff, to lead to our exit of Iraq," he said.

'We shouldn't be here'

Other US troops expressed feelings of guilt over killing Iraqis in a war they believe is unjust.

"We shouldn't be here," said one Marine infantryman bluntly. "There was no reason for invading this country in the first place. We just came here and [angered people] and killed a lot of innocent people," said the marine, who has seen regular combat in Ramadi. "I don't enjoy killing women and children, it's not my thing."

As with his comrades, the marine accepted some of the most controversial claims of "Fahrenheit 9/11," which critics have called biased. "Bush didn't want to attack [Osama] Bin Laden because he was doing business with Bin Laden's family," he said.

Another marine, Sgt. Christopher Wallace of Pataskala, Ohio, agreed that the film was making an impression on troops. "Marines nowadays want to know stuff. They want to be informed, because we'll be voting out here soon," he said. " 'Fahrenheit 9/11' opened our eyes to things we hadn't seen before." But, he added after a pause, "We still have full faith and confidence in our commander-in-chief. And if John Kerry is elected, he will be our commander in chief."
It's an interesting story. The officer corps of the military tends to be overwhelmingly Republican, but the enlisted men are more evenly split politically. It appears there is a large bloc of soldiers in Iraq who could be very receptive to Senator Kerry's message. Let's hope he speaks to them and they listen. No one knows more about the incompetence of this administration than our fighting men and women in Iraq.

KERRY NUKES BUSH -- In a speech that is long overdue, John Kerry blasted the Bush administration for colossal errors that have wasted time, treasure, and blood in Iraq.
"The president's policy in Iraq precipitated the very problem he said he was trying to prevent," Kerry said. "Iraq is becoming a sanctuary for a new generation of terrorists who someday could hit the United States."

Against a backdrop of rising casualties, fears of civil war and questions about whether elections can be held in Iraq in January as scheduled, Kerry has tried to make the conflict a key barometer of Bush's record in office.

"The president misled, miscalculated, and mismanaged every aspect of this undertaking," Kerry said, accusing Bush of making "catastrophic decisions" and surrounding himself with ideologues who provide "stubborn incompetence."

"The president now admits to miscalculations in Iraq," Kerry said. "His were not the equivalent of accounting errors. They were colossal failures of judgment -- and judgment is what we look for in a president."

"George Bush has no strategy for Iraq. I do, and I have all along," Kerry said.
And what would John Kerry do in Iraq?
To win international support for the war, Kerry proposed that Bush convene a summit meeting of world leaders in New York this week for the General Assembly of the United Nations. Bush addresses the United Nations on Tuesday.

Kerry said he would offer other nations who could provide troops with specific roles for training Iraqi security forces and securing its borders and then let them bid on reconstruction contracts instead of locking them out of the process.

He also said the United States must recruit training assistance for Iraqi forces from NATO allies and wage a reconstruction plan that uses Iraqi contractors and workers rather than big U.S. corporations like Halliburton, which formerly was headed by Vice President Dick Cheney and has won billion dollar government contracts to rebuild Iraq.

To guarantee elections next year in Iraq, the United States should recruit troops from allies for a U.N. protection force and train Iraqis to manage polling places, Kerry said

"If we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight," he said.
Sounds like a plan worth trying to me. Nothing is going to be easy in Iraq due to the colossal mistakes committed by the Bush administration, but our only chance to salvage something from the invasion is to dump the man who got us into this mess and clearly has no idea how to get out of it. Indeed, he won't even admit there are serious problems in Iraq; so serious that Republican senators are going on television accusing the administration of "incompetence." George W. Bush has no plan for Iraq. John Kerry does. Read it here.

EDIT: Noam Scheiber at The New Republic also liked the speech:
John Kerry's Iraq speech at NYU this morning is easily the best thing to come out of his mouth during the campaign. He did two things he hadn't really done before--at least not in detail. First, he described the situation in Iraq in extremely blunt terms, ticking off the rising number of American casualties, the rising number of insurgent attacks, the ever-expanding list of "no go zones" controlled by terrorists, and the deterioration in basic living conditions for ordinary Iraqis. Second, he connected these disastrous facts on the ground to specific miscalculations made by the president: the expectation that we'd be greeted as liberators, the blithe unconcern about looting, the naïvely small number of troops we deployed for the postwar mission, the reliance on charlatans like Ahmed Chalabi, the underinvestment in training Iraqi troops and policemen.

A couple more details worthy of note. One, Kerry successfully broadened the character debate from empty attributes like toughness and resolution to critical attributes like judgment, competence, and honesty. He then connected the president's deficiencies in these areas to our failures in Iraq. ("The only officials who lost their jobs over Iraq," Kerry complained, "were the ones who told the truth" about what it would take to win.) Two, Kerry led with his strongest critique of the administration on Iraq (i.e., it's a disaster that resulted from the president's wrong decisions--see above) rather than with his less compelling procedural gripes (the failure to build a real coalition, to give inspectors enough time, etc.), which he didn't mention till the end of the speech. The order of these criticisms was reversed as recently as Kerry's National Guard Association speech last week. Three, though the entire speech was well-focused, I was particularly encouraged by this Carville-like moment of lucidity: "And it makes the choice in this election clear: more of the same with President Bush or a new direction that makes our troops and America safer." Change versus more of the same--it really is that simple.
More of this, please, Big John.

GOP SENATORS BLAST BUSH ON IRAQ -- Apparently, a few Republican senators are past the point where they can defend the indefensible. A little truth-telling from the GOP is long overdue, but better late than never.
Reflecting rising concerns, one senior Republican senator said today that the United States was in "deep trouble" in Iraq, another denounced administration "incompetence" in Iraqi reconstruction, while two others said that unless American-led forces quickly retake several areas from insurgents, credible elections cannot be held in January.

The senators' comments, made on televised political programs, underscored mounting worries even within President Bush's party about the murderous attacks of recent weeks, and about the coalition's failure to bring some Iraqi cities under control.

The comments of Senators Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina came as the interim Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, was telling a television interviewer that "we are winning" the fight against what he said were increasingly desperate insurgents.
"No, I don't think we're winning," Senator Hagel of Nebraska said on the CBS News program "Face the Nation." "We're in trouble, we're in deep trouble in Iraq."

Mr. Hagel, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he planned on Monday to send administration officials a list of recommendations for changing course in Iraq, including a major effort to involve regional allies to speed up training of Iraqi police and troops.

More American troops are clearly needed, Mr. Graham said on CNN. "The security situation in Iraq is going to get worse before it gets better," he said. "I think we're going to need more people over time."

Mr. Lugar, asked why only $1 billion of $18 billion appropriated last year for Iraqi reconstruction had been spent, replied, "Well, this is the incompetence in the administration." The Foreign Relations Committee chairman was appearing on the ABC News program "This Week."

Senator McCain — who, like Senator Hagel and Senator Lugar, has often criticized administration planning on Iraq — said that a major error was allowing insurgents to keep control of the city of Falluja, after vowing to oust them. "As Napoleon said, if you say you're going to take Vienna, you take Vienna," Mr. McCain said.

Insurgents are challenging American control of other cities as well.

"I would never have allowed the sanctuaries to start with," Mr. McCain said on "Fox News Sunday." "And allowing those sanctuaries has contributed significantly to the difficulties that we're facing, which are very, very significant."
The White House and Bush campaign are already, by implication, calling these Republican senators pessimists and hand-wringers. Standard Bush admin stuff: No facts, just lots of attacks.

PREZ POLL ROUNDUP -- Here are some of the latest...

CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll

Bush-Cheney 54
Kerry-Edwards 40
Nader-Camejo 3
Other/Neither 3
Sept. 13-15, 2004. 767 likely voters nationwide.
Margin of error +/- 4 percentage points.

Pew Research Center poll

Bush-Cheney 47
Kerry-Edwards 46
Nader-Camejo 1
Other/Unsure 6
Sept. 11-14, 2004. 725 likely voters nationwide.
Margin of error +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Harris poll

Bush-Cheney 47
Kerry-Edwards 48
Nader-Camejo 2
Not Sure/Refused 3
Sept. 9-13, 2004. 867 likely voters nationwide.
Margin of error +/- 4 percentage points

Investor's Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll

Bush-Cheney 46
Kerry-Edwards 46
Nader-Camejo 3
Not Sure 5
Sept. 7-12, 2004. 674 likely voters nationwide.
Margin of error +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Newsweek poll

Bush-Cheney 49
Kerry-Edwards 43
Nader-Camejo 2
Other/Undecided 6
Sept. 9-10, 2004. 1,003 registered voters nationwide.
Margin of error +/- 4 percentage points.

Zogby America poll

Bush-Cheney 46
Kerry-Edwards 42
Nader-Camejo 2
Other/Unsure 10
Sept. 8-9, 2004. 1,018 likely voters nationwide.
Margin of error +/- 3.1 percentage points.

Time poll

Bush-Cheney 52
Kerry-Edwards 42
Nader-Camejo 3
Unsure 4
Sept. 7-9, 2004. 857 likely voters nationwide.
Margin of error +/- 4 percentage points.

Associated Press/Ipsos poll

Bush-Cheney 52
Kerry-Edwards 43
Nader-Camejo 2
Other/None/Unsure 3
Sept. 7-9, 2004. 800 likely voters nationwide.
Margin of error +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Source: the polls;