Thursday, May 31, 2007

What Would Americans Tell President Bush to Do About Iraq?

What Would Americans Tell President Bush to Do About Iraq?:

"There are several conclusions from these data:

  • The largest category of responses from the public -- offered by a majority of 54% -- would be to advise President Bush to focus on removing the troops from Iraq and exiting the country, leaving the situation in the control of the Iraqis. This includes 39% of Americans who would advise Bush to simply get U.S. troops out of Iraq now.
  • A second group, representing one-fourth of Americans, would advise the president to essentially "stay the course" or to be even more aggressive in the country's military actions.
  • A smaller category would advise the president to work with others in finding a solution, including an advisory board or the United Nations.
  • Six percent would advise the president to admit his past mistakes and apologize.

Partisan Differences

There are significant differences by partisan orientation in the responses to this question in the current data:

If you could talk with President Bush for fifteen minutes about the situation in Iraq, what would you, personally, advise him to do? [OPEN-ENDED]









Pull the troops out and come home/end it





Finish what was started/be more aggressive





Doing a good job/continue with your actions





Come up with and execute a well thought-out exit strategy





Get them trained and let them run their own country





Build up the military/send more troops





Keep the public informed/be honest/explain actions





Join in and work with the United Nations





Admit to past mistakes/apologize





Take care of our own problems





Work with and improve advisory board





Improve the homeland security










Nothing/Don't know





* = Less than 0.5%

There are also a couple conclusions from these data:

  • More than half of Democrats would tell President Bush to pull the troops out and/or to execute a well thought-out exit strategy. Another 8% would tell the president to admit his past mistakes.
  • Republicans, not surprisingly, are much more likely to say they would tell the president that he is doing a good job and to continue, and to be more aggressive in finishing what he has started. Still, 21% of Republicans would tell the president to pull the troops out, and another 9% would tell him to focus on an exit strategy.

Bottom Line

The majority of Americans, as measured in a number of Gallup Poll surveys this year, believe the initial decision for the United States to become involved in Iraq was a mistake. Research also shows a majority of Americans favor a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that Americans -- if given the chance to talk with President Bush about Iraq -- would be most likely to tell him to figure out a way to withdraw U.S. troops from there.

The president maintains the loyalty of a smaller group of Americans -- one in four -- who are supportive of his current actions or would even want him to be more aggressive.

The administration argues that the war in Iraq is a necessary part of the war on terror, and that it is imperative to succeed. The president and members of his administration have said repeatedly that any type of discussion of withdrawal or the setting of a timetable is unacceptable at this time and would be tantamount to failure. These arguments notwithstanding, however, the majority of the American public would instruct their president to focus on withdrawal of troops and the development of an exit strategy. "

Citizens Lose Access, Court Says Suck Cess

Oral Dissents Give Ginsburg a New Voice on Court - New York Times:
"Throughout her legal career, Justice Ginsburg has been deeply concerned about questions of access to the courts and the remedial powers of federal judges, themes she has explored in both majority and dissenting opinions."

in her 15 years on the court has she delivered two in one term. In her past dissents, both oral and written, she has been reluctant to breach the court’s collegial norms. “What she is saying is that this is not law, it’s politics,” Pamela S. Karlan, a Stanford law professor, said of Justice Ginsburg’s comment linking the outcome in the abortion case to the fact of the court’s changed membership. “She is accusing the other side of making political claims, not legal claims.”

The justice’s acquaintances have watched with great interest what some depict as a late-career transformation. “Her style has always been very ameliorative, very conscious of etiquette,” said Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, the sociologist and a longtime friend. “She has always been regarded as sort of a white-glove person, and she’s achieved a lot that way. Now she is seeing that basic issues she’s fought so hard for are in jeopardy, and she is less bound by what have been the conventions of the court.”

Some might say her dissents are an expression of sour grapes over being in the minority more often than not. But there may be strategic judgment, as well as frustration, behind Justice Ginsburg’s new style. She may have concluded that quiet collegiality has proved futile and that her new colleagues, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., are not open to persuasion on the issues that matter most to her.

Justice Alito, of course, took the place of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, with whom Justice Ginsburg formed a deep emotional bond, although they differed on a variety of issues. And Chief Justice Roberts succeeded Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, with whom Justice Ginsburg often disagreed but maintained a relationship that was at times surprisingly productive.

For example, in 1996, over Justice Scalia’s vigorous dissent, the chief justice gave Justice Ginsburg his vote in a decision holding that the Virginia Military Institute’s men-only admissions policy was unconstitutional. In 2003, they made common cause in a case that strengthened the Family and Medical Leave Act. When Justice Ginsburg criticized a Rehnquist opinion, she did so gently; today’s adversary could be tomorrow’s ally.

If there has been any such meeting of the minds between Justice Ginsburg and her new colleagues, it has not been evident. She may have concluded that her side’s interests are better served by appealing not to the court’s majority but to the public. “She’s sounding an alarm and wants people to take notice,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, an advocacy group that focuses on the workplace.

Never, Ever Poison the Well You Need to Drink From

Jihadist Groups Fill a Palestinian Power Vacuum - New York Times:

"Palestinian authority, both in the Palestinian areas and in refugee camps in Lebanon and beyond, used to lie in the hands of Fatah, the nationalist faction once led by Yasir Arafat. But after the entry of militant Hamas into politics, its 2006 electoral defeat of Fatah and the battles between them, jihadi freelancers with murky links are filling a vacuum in Gaza and in the camps in Lebanon.

Bush administration officials say they are increasingly concerned that Hamas and even more radical groups may be hijacking the Palestinian movement. The officials say they see no operational connection between what is happening in Palestinian camps in Lebanon and the deterioration in Gaza. But they say they do see an ideological link, with hopeless and marginalized young people turning to jihad because they believe that more secular or moderate options have failed them.

In the squalid streets of the Ain al Hilwe refugee camp outside the southern Lebanese city of Sidon, people like Abu Ahmed Taha are bracing for a fight they have long been dreading.

Militias in the camp of 47,000 roam the streets armed and ready; skirmishes break out sporadically and tensions have never been higher. For Mr. Taha, the real danger is that the fastest-growing militias are those of jihadis with wholly different aspirations from his.

“There is a central problem and that is Al Qaeda, and they are spreading,” Mr. Taha said, after an emergency meeting of religious and political leaders in the camp last week to calm tensions. “The Islamic awakening has been going on for 25 years now. But this, now, is going to become a huge problem for us.”

Mr. Taha’s fears are remarkable because of who he is: not a secular campaigner or a Fatah apparatchik, but a senior member of Hamas. In the violent underground of the militias, men like him have become unlikely moderates, calling for calm and seeking to build bonds with the other militias and the government.

Security officials and analysts say groups inspired by Al Qaeda have had a presence in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon for a decade, where they have thrived, taking advantage of the lawlessness and poor living conditions. In Lebanon, Palestinians are not allowed to own property and are limited in the kind of work they can do. They generally enjoy few rights.

Ain al Hilwe, too, became a jihadi hotbed about five years ago. More than 25 men from there alone have gone to Iraq to fight, Hamas and Fatah officials say, never to be seen again. And jihadis there say more are ready to go.

Mr. Taha notes that the new groups make it easy to join. Whereas it may take years of inculcation for a young man to become a full-fledged member of Hamas, he can become a member of the jihadi militias just by declaring fealty, Mr. Taha said. And rather than focusing on a political education, the militia members focus on a global fight coupled with religious sloganeering.

Whether these jihadist groups are part of Al Qaeda or simply local bands of religious fanatics, Westerners and their institutions are now more clearly under attack throughout the region, including in Gaza, as seen in the bombing of the schools and in the kidnappings of two Fox News correspondents and of Alan Johnston, the BBC’s Gaza correspondent. A shadowy group called the Army of Islam claims that it kidnapped Mr. Johnston in March.

In Gaza, where residents tend to be more religiously observant than those in the West Bank, Palestinians say Al Qaeda has had less of an impact than a growing band of religious fanatics. The groups are striking out at what they consider to be moral and religious corruption, using popular religious justifications for common acts of criminal kidnapping and extortion. "

Big Disparities in Judging of Asylum Cases - New York Times

Big Disparities in Judging of Asylum Cases - New York Times:

"Asylum seekers in the United States face broad disparities in the nation’s 54 immigration courts, with the outcome of cases influenced by things like the location of the court and the sex and professional background of judges, a new study has found.

The study, by three law professors, analyzes 140,000 decisions by immigration judges, including those cases from the 15 countries that have produced the most asylum seekers in recent years, among them China, Haiti, Colombia, Albania and Russia. The professors compared for the first time the results of immigration court cases over more than four years, finding vast differences in the handling of claims with generally comparable factual circumstances.

In one of the starker examples cited, Colombians had an 88 percent chance of winning asylum from one judge in the Miami immigration court and a 5 percent chance from another judge in the same court.…

The study is based on data on judges’ decisions from January 2000 through August 2004. It will be posted today on the Web site of the Social Science Research Network,, and published in November in the Stanford Law Review.

In addition to Professor Schrag, the authors are Andrew I. Schoenholtz, also a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, and Jaya Ramji-Nogales, a professor at Beasley School of Law at Temple University.

According to the study, great differences also prevail among judges sitting on the same court and hearing similar asylum cases. In the Miami immigration court, one judge granted 3 percent of the asylum cases, while another granted 75 percent.

One of the most significant factors determining whether a judge would be likely to approve asylum petitions was sex, the study found. Female immigration judges grant asylum at a 44 percent higher rate than their male colleagues.

The study by the three professors did not examine the judges’ political affiliation or the administration that appointed them.

The study suggests that the different willingness to grant asylum between male and female judges may in part have to do with their backgrounds. Of 78 female judges in the study, 27 percent had previously worked for organizations that defended the rights of immigrants or the poor, while only 8 percent of 169 male judges had similar experience.…

The variations between courts and among judges were particularly troubling, the authors of the study argued, because of the impact of procedural changes introduced by the Bush administration in 2002 at the Board of Immigration Appeals, the appellate body that reviews decisions by the immigration court judges.

Those changes led to a “sudden and lasting decline” in appeals that were favorable to asylum seekers, the study found, raising doubts as to whether the board was providing fair appeals.

In 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft made streamlined the work of the appeals board, reducing the number of board members to 11 from 23 and encouraging more decisions by single members and without explanation.

The study looked at 76,000 decisions by the appeals board from 1998 through 2005. Asylum applicants who were represented by lawyers received favorable appeals decisions from the board in 43 percent of cases in 2001, the year before the changes took effect. By 2005, asylum seekers with lawyers won their appeals in 13 percent of cases.

“The judges handle a very large caseload, they’re human, they are not going to catch every detail,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, a legal assistance group in Chicago. “But once they streamlined the Board of Immigration Appeals,” Ms. McCarthy said, “there was a failure of the board to review those cases, to check on what the immigration judge had found. When that failed, we had a real crisis in the system.”

As a result of the trends at the appeals board, there has been a new surge of asylum appeals to the federal circuit courts, in practice the last resort for immigration cases. Over all, the number of people winning asylum in the United States has declined, dropping by about 12 percent from 28,684 in 2003 to 25,257 in 2005, the last year when complete figures are available."

Monday, May 28, 2007

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Civilian Deaths Undermine War on Taliban - New York Times

Civilian Deaths Undermine War on Taliban - New York Times:

Since the beginning of March at least 132 civilians have been killed in at least six bombings or shootings, according to officials. The actual number of civilians killed is probably higher, since the areas of heaviest fighting, like the southern province of Helmand, are too unsafe for travel and many deaths go unreported and cannot be verified.

"The United States military says it came under heavy fire from insurgents as it searched for a local tribal commander and weapons caches and called in airstrikes, killing 136 Taliban fighters.

But the villagers denied that any Taliban were in the area. Instead, they said, they rose up and fought the Americans themselves, after the soldiers raided several houses, arrested two men and shot dead two old men on a village road.

After burying the dead, the tribe’s elders met with their chief, Hajji Arbab Daulat Khan, and resolved to fight American forces if they returned. “If they come again, we will stand against them, and we will raise the whole area against them,” he warned. Or in the words of one foreign official in Afghanistan, the Americans went after one guerrilla commander and created a hundred more.

On Tuesday, barely 24 hours after American officials apologized publicly to President Karzai for a previous incident in which 19 civilians were shot by marines in eastern Afghanistan, reports surfaced of at least 21 civilians killed in an airstrike in Helmand Province, though residents reached by phone said the toll could be as high as 80.

While NATO is now in overall command of the military operations in the country, many of the most serious episodes of civilian deaths have involved United States counterterrorism and Special Operations forces that operate separately from the NATO command.

NATO, which now has 35,000 soldiers in the country, has emphasized its concern about keeping civilian casualties to a minimum. Yet NATO, too, has been responsible for civilian casualties over the past year, as it has relied on air power to compensate for a shortage of troops, an American military official who has served in Afghanistan said in a recent interview.

The subject of civilian casualties was the source of intense discussion on Wednesday in Brussels when the NATO secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, met with the North Atlantic Council, the top representatives of the coalition. But the conversation was less about how to reduce casualties, according to participants, than about how to explain them to European governments, who say their troops are there for reconstruction, not hunting the Taliban or terrorists.

“The Europeans are worried about a lack of clarity about who is responsible for the counterterror mission,” said one participant in the debate. “They are worried that if NATO appears responsible for these casualties, it will result in a loss of support” for keeping forces in Afghanistan.

But it is not only the Americans whose practices are being questioned. NATO soldiers have frequently fired on civilians on the roads, often because the Afghans drive too close to military convoys or checkpoints.

In interviews, villagers, who had cooperated with NATO before, blamed local rivals for planting false information with the Americans, to encourage the Americans to attack Zerkoh.

After the Special Forces units started raiding homes, the villagers were so angered, they said, they fought the Americans themselves. They insisted that no Taliban were here, an area that has been mostly calm.

“NATO was coming regularly, and the Afghan Army and police, and we were cooperating with them,” said Muhammad Alef, 35, a farmer who was tending to his wounded cousin in the provincial hospital in the city of Herat.

“But when the Americans came without permission, and they came more than once and disturbed the people,” he said. “They searched the houses, and the second time they arrested people, and the third time the people got angry and fought them.”

The public mood hardened against foreign forces in the southern city of Kandahar after British troops fired on civilians while driving through the streets after a suicide bombing last year, and Canadian soldiers have repeatedly killed and wounded civilians while on patrol in civilian areas. "

Only our enemy seems to have a clear idea of what constitutes victory. Why is that so?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Study: Many U.S. Soldiers in Iraq Admit Abusing Civilians, Backing Torture

Study: Many U.S. Soldiers in Iraq Admit Abusing Civilians, Backing Torture: "WASHINGTON In a survey of U.S. troops in combat in Iraq, less than half of Marines soldiers said they feel they should treat noncombatants with respect. Only about a half said they would report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian.

More than 40 percent support the idea of torture in some cases, and 10 percent reported personally abusing Iraqi civilians, the Pentagon said Friday in what it called its first ethics study of troops at the war front. Units exposed to the most combat were chosen for the study, officials said."

The military has seen a number of high-profile incidents of alleged abuse in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the killings of 24 civilians by Marines in Haditha, the rape and killing of a 14-year-old girl and the slaying of her family in Iraq and the sexual humiliation of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison.

The study team also found that long and repeated deployments were increasing troop mental health problems.

But Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, the Army’s acting surgeon general, said the team’s “most critical” findings were on ethics.

“They looked under every rock, and what they found was not always easy to look at,” said Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health.

Findings included:

• Sixty-two percent of soldiers and 66 percent of Marines said that they knew someone seriously injured or killed, or that a member of their team had become a casualty.

• The 2006 adjusted rate of suicides per 100,000 soldiers was 17.3 soldiers, lower than the 19.9 rate reported in 2005.

• Only 47 percent of the soldiers and 38 percent of Marines said noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect.

• About a third of troops said they had insulted or cursed at civilians in their presence.

• About 10 percent of soldiers and Marines reported mistreating civilians or damaging property when it was not necessary. Mistreatment includes hitting or kicking a civilian.

• Forty-four percent of Marines and 41 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to save the life of a soldier or Marine.

• Thirty-nine percent of Marines and 36 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to gather important information from insurgents.

Lt. Col. Scott Fazekas, a Marine Corps spokesman, said officials were looking closely at the ethics results, taken from a questionnaire survey of 1,320 soldiers and 447 Marines.

The military services blame lengthy deployments and short intervals between deployment for these results. So how is it that we had better behavior and attitudes in WWII, when soldiers served for the duration? For one thing, a lot of time was spent letting soldiers know why we were fighting, and we told them how we expected them to behave toward civilians. Misbehavior was punished swiftly, harshly. Some of our soldiers were even executed.

In the Korean war and in Viet Nam, things were very different. Huge numbers of atrocities were ignored, whenit couldn't be ignored penalties were light and those fell most heavily on the guy at the bottom. As they do now.

con·cept: May 2007