LOST? John Burns has been a pretty reliable guide to reality in Iraq. His <a href = http

//www.nytimes.com/2005/11/20/weekinreview/20burns.html target = _blank>piece today makes sobering reading. The next phase looks messy, but not necessarily more disastrous than what has happened up till now. (Yeah, I know that’s not exactly a high standard). I’m hanging in there with David Brooks. It’s not intellectually easy to continue supporting a war when you’ve lost faith in the honesty and competence of the president who’s leading it, but what choice do we have? There are other good people struggling to make this work: Casey, Rice, Khalilzad, McCain; and the thousands of troops who are risking their lives in this project. They key is to grasp how little we know, how badly we’ve screwed up, but also not to throw in the towel when, in fact, there is still a chance for leveraging the current situation to our and to Iraqis’ advantage. One thing I wish were more insisted upon. It’s not just that we have no interest in seeing Iraq degenerate into a brutal civil and possibly regional war. By removing Saddam, we created this vacuum. We own it. We have a moral responsibility to see this through.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “These mullahs fucked up this country. The country is sick right now. I can’t live in a sick situation. For that reason, I couldn’t vote yesterday. I’d give my life for America, but not for Iran. Because, if I work a lot there, I may achieve something. In Iran, when you want something, plan for it, work your ass off for it, you cannot make it and have no clear future.” – young Iranian, Arash, as reported in the current New Yorker in a splendid piece by Laura Secor (that is, alas, not available online). One fascinating nugget: in one of the world’s most repressive religious regimes, Iranians have the highest opiate addiction levels in the world. Opium is smoked as often and as casually as pot is in the United States. You want high levels of drug addiction? Get yourself a theocracy.

QUOTE OF THE DAY II: “I have never seen a Party so full of shit when it comes to supporting the military. They fight wars on the cheap and get people killed unnecessarily, instead of fighting with everything wex92ve got under a coherant and cohesive strategy that ensures military victory. They let domestic politics trump military necessity, preferring to lie and shift the blame rather than address the problems and solve them like real men. They care about image rather than substance, empty rhetoric instead of courage, mediocrity instead of excellence, and machiavellian maneuvering instead of strong moral character. They have demonstrated nothing but contempt for us and for those that have served honorably in the past. They play us for suckers and weep crocodile tears at our deaths as their stock values rise. They are strangers to integrity and completely bereft of the basic values that we hold dear. They are without honor. They can go to hell.
If this is what Republicans mean by ‘supporting the troops,’ then they can by all means support the insurgents. We’d have a free and democratic Iraq by the end of the year.” – blogger “Stryker,” on the blog, “Digital Warfighter.” (By the way, this is the same guy who used to blog on the SgtStryker military blog. He was strongly pro-war. He’s just become enraged by the way it has been conducted.)

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