Thursday, July 26, 2007

Addiction and Painful Withdrawal
GW Bush in Iraq

By most reports GW Bush is a recovering alcoholic. Common treatment for this addiction is intentionally to substitute another addiction emotionally, usually in the form of spiritual solace found in the born again evangelical tenets. Amen, GW Bush accepted this course of treatment; he stopped drinking okay, but his cure took a bizarre turn: he now makes war, because God tells him to do it. HALLELUJAH! Withdrawal from his Iraq War for him is an intense personal crisis, the same faced by any hooked addict forced to confront the denial of his abused substance.

Last week Eric Edelman, an under secretary for policy in Bob Gates' Pentagon, responded to Senator Hillary Clinton's request for information on troop withdrawal planning for Iraq with a bombastic, vitriolic statement impugning Senator Clinton's patriotism for asking such questions. Senator Clinton, apart from being Bill's wife, and is aggressively pursuing the Democratic party's nomination for president, is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. So it was a legitimate question, especially since the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff botched every other aspect in the Iraqi War. You have to wonder whether these defense planners would get their reluctant retreat from Iraq right without turning it into another deadly incompetent operation.

Eric Edelman is really a cookie full of arsenic. He served as one of VEEP Cheney's make war pistoleros before he was planted in the Pentagon. He is one of the tormented pro Israel neocons that infested the Pentagon under Rumsfeld – part of the Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, and Shulsky tribe that has sowed disaster for America. I was surprised to learn that Gates would keep such an obviously discredited individual on in an important position. Especially since he sought to change course at Defense. Edelman has certainly played to his dim neocon profile. Perhaps Gates is just too timid to return Dick Cheney's gift Trojan Horse... SecDef Gates is a promoter of the surge; so far he has permitted the Pentagon to run him rather than the other way around. He acts more as Elmer Fudd than Captain Courageous. His recent lachrymose public performance over American war dead is not a substitute for a withdrawal policy.

Apart from accusing Senator Clinton of being soft on Terrorism, Edelman drew painful historical parallels with US defeats in Vietnam, Somalia, Lebanon – that all these military ventures were defeats, there is no question. Equally important, like the Iraq war, is that they were all ill conceived, but unlike now, the US had the leadership finally with sense to cut and run. Neocons adore using historical examples that never really work: every so often they give us the Hitler metaphor – you remember Hitler Saddam and now Hitler Ahmadinejad. How otherwise can you explain the nitwit term Islamo Fascist for a Jihadist? They seemed buried in WWII, especially in the Third Reich, unable to project much past it – some believe they are still dented by the horrors of the holocaust. They gave us the Axis of Evil despite the fact Iran and Iraq hated each other, and sent GW Bush to Latvia in 2005 pointlessly to attack Russia ex post facto over Yalta and the Iron Curtain. They are one weird, obsessive troop way outside the US mainstream.

Withdrawal in Iraq is complicated mainly because Bush never believed he would have to leave. He set up elaborate house keeping, and planned long term cohabitation with the Iraq people who generally despise him. GW Bush's sometimes friend Maliki said the American occupation forces do not respect the Iraqi people. They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion. Add failed security, the bloody events at the Sunni village of Haditha and the squalid US conduct at Abu Gharib, and you understand the intense hatred; there is also the issue of detaining thousands of Iraqis without due process. Occupations are always dirty. The Huns succeeded, but they decimated the nations they conquered with fire and sword. You do what you have to do in these situations, but the military, trying to do its best, is a blunt instrument that is designed to destroy the enemy. In Iraq, nearly everyone is the enemy. After 5 years of massive US effort, there are very few US trained and equipped Iraq security forces that will reliably support US interests. The scary thing is that they may oppose them.

Retreat is a retrograde military maneuver, always dangerous under fire. The US has to withdraw its regular forces, the military equipment that is not deadlined, try to get over 100,000 general contractors out over which it exercises little control, and protect those Iraqis that cooperated with US forces. Maybe a truce can be arranged. Or some of those richly paid private contractors might fight a rear guard action. This is a daunting task and it will not be pretty under any circumstance. The Americans remember the panic departure from Vietnam. The Russians were stopped from a staged ground evacuation in Afghanistan by remorseless attacks and finally had to airlift their forces out. The day US forces depart, the Green Zone will fall to the Iraqi militias who may not protect US personnel. So it is no wonder Mr. Edelman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff will not willingly face the issue. More importantly, GW Bush does not want to face even more chaos in office, so he is desperately trying to keep the forces in Iraq until he leaves office. Meanwhile American troops die pointlessly.

On Monday US Ambassador Crocker in Baghdad requested officially that all Iraqis employed by the US Government in Iraq be granted US visas. He did not give a number. The ambassador believes that these Iraqis fear for their lives and will flee unless they have a visa immigration outlet to the US. What does that say for the tense mood in the Green Zone? Not exactly a confident one when escape is a main concern. Crocker also has problems with staffing from the State Department that can not find enough diplomats willing to go Iraq.

Richard Perle, High Priest on the neocon Sanhedrin, was quoted saying after the invasion of Iraq, THERE IS NO TURNING BACK. The Pentagon already has spent billions of dollars on permanent bases in Iraq. The base complex at Balad is the largest and has a 13 ft security fence that goes on for 14 miles; it has internal roads and a self sufficient infrastructure; it is designed as the strategic air center for the whole region. Another is an airbase near Nasiriya where it is planned to have mess facilities for 6,000 troops. There are others as well. The planned US embassy in Baghdad is the largest the world; it has been reported it covers an area larger than the Vatican with an independent infrastructure that includes over 21 buildings and is surrounded by 10 ft deep perimeter walls. It is planned to be a complete separate city with all the creature comfort amenities, although it still remains incomplete. Believe GW Bush intended this monster fortified enclave to be his Second Rome in his misguided Great American Empire – all this remarkably for the postwar period in a war that has not been won. These indefensible extravagances took place while the American people slept and their senators and congressmen quietly rolled over and over and over. Perle may be right – although it would be for the first time in this war.

Now you understand why GW Bush is addicted to Iraq and does not have the character or will power to withdraw from his consuming substance abuse. He has fed the Dragon intensely (over $500 billion) for five years, and is driven to continue to be an imperial power junkie. Only way to kick his habit is to make him go cold turkey. Cut funding for his foolish war, now! Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

*Photograph: Etching by Francisco de Goya

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Cross of Oil – GW Bush in Iraq

Well, despite the weasel wording, the American people were told last week that after five years of the War on Terror, al Qaeda is alive and well, prepared to strike anywhere, anytime... About the same time, reports were received that the US nurtured and democratically elected Iraqi government is totally dysfunctional – cannot come close to meeting US mandated benchmarks. This admission of US failure follows earlier forced declarations to correct misleading Bush misrepresentations that Iraq did possess WMD and was linked to al Qaeda before 9/11. Faced with all this vaporizing baloney, WHY DID Bush preemptively invade Iraq? OIL – OIL – OIL. Even BEFORE the invasion, VP Cheney awarded a 7 billion dollar contract to Halliburton to rebuild the Iraq oil industry. Bush's invasion was cheered on by his agitated, pro Israeli Neocon stooges who had another agenda, but Bush did not mind. He just coveted control of Iraq's black gold. For his war, neocons provided him a media propaganda blitz and an intense congressional lobby supported by the powerful Israeli political action committees in the US.

Republican Senator Stevens of Alaska said last week that the US cannot permit al Qaeda to control Iraqi oil, so the US must fight on. About the same time the leadership of Australia, part of Bush's coalition of the willing, said after dropping the mask: Australia is in Iraq for oil. We know the English occupy Southern Iraq where BP (British Petroleum) got its start in the early 1920s. Reviewing the invasion of Iraq, it is obvious that Iraqi oil production, oil administration offices, and pipelines were the main strategic objectives in the war. US troops on orders stood by as the the rest of Iraq was seriously looted under their noses and instead, they diligently guarded the oil related facilities. Even Iraqi ammunition dumps were foolishly left unguarded as US troops focused on Bush's oil priorities. The large scale looting of the economy, hospitals, and infrastructure set back Iraqi reconstruction for years. The looting of Iraq museums and cultural sites ripped the soul from the Iraqi people – Rumsfeld's reply to all this chaos was STUFF HAPPENS. Looting caused more devastation to Iraq than the war itself.

When Bush invaded Iraq, the price of oil was about 33.48 USD a barrel. Today it is shockingly over 70.00 dollars a barrel. Bush's father, President HW Bush, also had sticky fingers when it came to oil. The reason Saddam invaded Kuwait was that HW Bush had the Kuwaitis produce and sell oil at $11 a barrel when Saddam needed OPEC market value, at least $24 a barrel, to sell to pay for his war debts that left him broke after his war with Iran. Daddy Read My Lips Bush sold his Kuwaiti war to a multinational coalition on a promise of keeping oil prices down – forget about those other glorious reasons, such as the threat to Saudi Arabia, and protecting the non existing democracy and so called freedom of the despotic Kuwaiti sheiks. Saddam, to his eternal distress, now, like GW Bush, ironically found stealing oil is indeed a risky business.

Bush's invasion of Iraq is a bloody and costly enterprise and it is failing; but to the US peoples' dismay, it is not over yet by a long shot. His fiasco now costs $12 billion a month. There are estimates by a nobel prize winning economist that the war could cost trillions of dollars as it continues, and if long term aid to the many seriously wounded veterans is calculated. The US casualties become more outrageous when the metaphor BLOOD FOR OIL is applied. And that is why the Bush Administration does not link oil to the war officially. After five years of war there is little reconstruction and almost no security for the Iraqi people, but the US has built its permanent bases as the Jihadists continue to swarm around them.

The intelligence reports of al Qaeda's resurgence is a head blow to Bush's War on Terror. Despite regular, self congratulatory reports on gains against the Jihadists, the fierce Islamic bedbugs continue to procreate and bite – Bush still has not figured out how to exterminate them, no matter how many bombs and bullets he employs. As long as Bush remains in Iraq and aids Israeli occupation of Arab lands, the Jihadist ranks will continue to swell globally with the hatred of the US continuing to grow.

The war in Afghanistan has been sidelined by the Iraqi war, but you have to wonder what the NATO forces there have been doing wrong to have the US raise the reward for bin Laden from 25 million to 50 million USD and have the US Secretary of Homeland Defense Chertoff suffer from intuitive pangs of a Jihadist attack on the US. My sense of the operations in Afghanistan is that as long as it is a NATO run operation, it is doomed to be one of more profile and less success. Now that Bush has screwed around with the Russian Bear, the Afghan war even becomes more problematical – Russia prefers that NATO remain tangled in the Hindu Kush more than on the plains of Europe charging through the Fulda Gap, so it will do its best to keep it there to spend and bleed at the hands of the tribesmen. And the Russians know that turf well... Can you see them drinking a vodka toast to the NATO miseries?

It is uncertain how the Chinese view the Afghan war that is near their borders. The Chinese are diplomatically close to Pakistan, so further Bush meddling there in internal affairs may have more Chinese repercussions than their rejecting of US exports to China of American pig ears and chicken feet in the ongoing trade tensions between the two countries. One thing Bush's inept diplomacy has managed to do is bring China and Russia, two natural enemies, closer together.

Apart from the failure to accomplish US political goals in Iraq, the Iraqi Shiite premier Maliki told the US a few days ago that Iraq does not need US forces for security – but, if the US wanted to provide military equipment or training to Iraqi forces, it could. The Iraqi Kurdish foreign minister quickly popped up on US TV the next day trying to walk the statement back; but, Kurds and Shiites have a different view of the world that even Condoleezza's dysfunctional State Department understands. While the US forces fight their battle in the blistering desert heat, the Iraqi foreign minister also defended the fact that the Iraqi parliament took a month off for vacation by declaring that the Iraqis intended to take two months off, but compromised, taking only a month. I am beginning to believe the Iraqis really have sangfroid, at least as much as our sometimes pals, the French.

Bush has run out excuses for the invasion of Iraq. He cannot publicly admit it was for oil, otherwise each US KIA tombstone might read THIS BRAVE WARRIOR DIED FOR BIG OIL and that could cause serious damage to American patriotic sensibilities. His effort to keep the war going by arguing that he keeps faith with those who died is a loser's sweat argument that only continues to multiply our loses in situation where our goals remain like a mirage that keeps slipping away. Bush certainly has gone after the oil in Iraq, but in the process he has built a string of permanent bases over the top of the oil he intends to hold. He has few except big oil and frightened Israelis to support him; he needs US military manpower to sustain the strategy, which under today's circumstances, is almost burned out. He could buy more mercenaries disguised as private contractors, but these guys work expensively and their loyalty is available to the highest bidder, which could be a Russian or a Chinese who now have plenty of dough to buy them off. Spending 12 billion dollars a month, there comes a time when just to pay market price for the God Damned oil is wiser, and let occupation go. This certainly will be more cost effective than is the fighting and dying in the Iraqi debacle... Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

* Photograph: The upside-down Christ is a symbol for those who do the opposite of Jesus of Nazareth

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More War, More Failure – GW Bush’s Iraq

Two active duty US Army Major Generals in the midst of combat in Iraq, publicly asked for more time to win the war. Two-star Generals Lynch and Mixion did their best politically to support their Commander and Chief GW Bush to continue the war. About the same time, a retired three-star General William Odum and retired four-star General Wesley Clark came out strongly for US troop withdrawals from Iraq. Just goes to tell you what retirement does for a clear conscience. Active duty Lynch and Mixion are pursuing more stars on their shoulders, and that may explain their fervor for war... For Odum and Clark, that quest is now over.

Pick any metric you wish: continuing high rate of US casualties; mounting piles of dead Iraqis; growing sectarian violence; increasing lethality of insurgent weapons; collapsing of US sponsored Maliki government, which fails to meet benchmarks; Iraq security forces who fail to hold territory; and, even the enormous amount of deadlined US military equipment; and you find failure. Lynch replied to charges that the US Army is broken by citing 500 reenlistments in Iraq on the 4th of July and the success of clearing actions; but admitted difficulties in holding territory. The issue of morale and reenlistments is dependent on how many soldiers eligible for reenlistment in fact reenlisted. The general did not tell us that. Holding territory is mandatory for success. If the insurgents return after US forces depart, all you have left for the combat effort are dead US forces, expended ammunition, destruction, and hot air. In this case it is a pointless operation and foolishly has been going on mindlessly for the course of the Iraqi war. These tactics were a failure in Vietnam as well as now in Iraq – it is as if the Army leadership learned nothing from the past.

As far as the Army being broken, you can judge for yourself. The Army now promotes nearly 100 percent 1st lieutenants to captain. The normal rate is little over 50 percent. Additionally, newly promoted captains who are willing to remain for three more years are enticed with a $20,000 bonus. By failing to weed out substandard lieutenants, and from my experience there are many, the Army has a built in, festering, rot that will infect the officer corps in the future. West Point graduates are bailing out of the Army at a rate not seen in the last thirty years. ROTC scholarships are unfilled.

There is an estimated shortage of 7,500 junior officers. Latest figures indicate the Army is short 3,000-3,500 noncommissioned officers. To keep enlistments up, ages have been raised from 35 to 42; high school drop outs, drug users and convicted criminals are now recruited. Overall educational standards have also been reduced. Noted the last time I was at Reagan International Airport, the presence of two female enlisted soldiers dressed in fatigues who had asses so broad, it would take a crane to lift them into the back of an open truck; forget about squeezing them into a humvee or troop carrier. For air transport, you would need a heavy lift cargo helicopter just to get them off the ground.

This depressing manpower picture for the US Army is being compounded by combat tours extended from 12 to 15 months with same troops deployed for multiple combat tours. Stress levels are high and beginning to affect combat effectiveness.

The measure to compensate for troop shortages and military skills in Iraq with contract civilian contract workers is a GW Bush twist on privatization of war. The number of private contractors in Iraq has been reported from 30,000 to 120,000; so like illegal immigrants, it is one those confounded mysteries that Bush administration is unable to talk straight on or penetrate, despite the fact it is responsible for the numbers. We were told that these contractors are involved in security, logistics, maintenance, repair and nation building infrastructure projects. This requires an expenditure of billions of dollars a week. Contracts mainly have been no-bid, time and materials which are really open ended and not easy to monitor for waste and abuse; there are already billions for which are unaccounted. The Democratic congressional oversight committees are now just lifting up the rocks, and some contractors have been prosecuted. The effect of this spending is that the Iraq war is big bucks: big business now earnestly protected by hired lobbyists. This explains some of the reasons the congress just does not have the heart to end the war: it loves that lobbyist money too, too much.

Perhaps the most egregious of out-sourced or privatization in Iraq is that of combat intelligence. The multi national British company Aegis Defense Services Ltd has been awarded a 293 million dollar cost plus contract for battlefield threat assessment and electronic tracking. The company is headed by Tim Spicer, a mercenary soldier of note – his employees are mainly ex military collected from many different countries. That his people can provide physical security and cut throats when required is not challenged, but whether a multinational, foreign owned organization can securely provide accurate, timely operational intelligence to US forces is another question. The security clearances of his sometimes unsavory crowd is another problem; all these guys work for bought loyalties, and easily sell out to the highest bidder. So forget about a realistic security regime in Spicer's operation. One thing SecDef Gates as a former CIA director should understand, is that NATO leaked sensitive information regularly. Spicer promises NATO like clearances. Insurgent and al Qaeda intelligence operatives are overjoyed by the prospect of such an easy target. Further, the real time communication and staff interfaces with US forces are tenuous – the opportunities for mischief and disinformation are seriously enhanced by this cynical effort to reduce US military participation in the war. It is plainly reckless to hand over intelligence operations to a foreign third party in combat, or any other time. The wrong way Neocon sect must still be in charge at the Pentagon to embrace such stupidity. That SecDef Gates, with his intelligence background, concurred in this set up is unbelievable...

Dice continue to roll in Iraq. SecDef Gates has cancelled his trip to Latin America this week to focus on Iraq. Despite a stiff upper lip by a beleaguered Bush administration, the edifice has cracked. Facing the fact that US troops are in the middle of a bloody civil war, Republican senators are now getting queazy over the conflict and seeking to embrace the Baker Hamilton Committee recommendations. These sleazy politicians love to play battle checkers with human life in their detached way. But this is only a very small move in the right direction – the US must get out completely from Iraqi land, because the Arabs and Shiites will not accept a dagger in their back and will carry on the fight with suicidal Jihadist fervor. Our troops sitting in fortified areas, as the French Foreign Legion in the old days, will be hammered, as their supply routes are slowly squeezed shut... Sure, we can remain in the area, if prepared to pay the price. But for what? Oil is over $70.00 per barrel, and jihadist ranks are swelling daily with our presence in their lands. Do not want hear that baloney about stopping terrorism over there, so it does not come here. Mr. Bush owns a broken Iraq. He has delighted the Israelis with their rah, rah neocons by putting US troops near the heart of Levant. He has paid a high price to do this. Question is how much more is he prepared to pay in blood and treasure to hold his position? Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET
*Photograph: Etching by Francisco de Goya

Thursday, July 05, 2007

GW Bush vs. The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle holds that an individual is promoted to his level of incompetence; for some this level is low. Grocery stock boys make it to assistant produce manager to remain there until retired or fired. GW Bush made it to President of the United States and by most standards he has reached his level of incompetence. The American electorate made the mistake to promote him to that position and is dearly paying the consequences. The public outrage over the Bush's demented immigration bill and its defeat for the second time in the US Senate, is a healthy sign that the voice of the people still has power in our representative Democracy.

Special interest lobbyists completely dominated Bush and most Democratic and some Republican senators that included Bomb, Bomb Bomb Senator McCain. Senator Ted Kennedy was the point man for the Democrats, and he is known to swim in the wrong direction... This bipartisan contingent arrogantly believed that the American people could kiss their asses and that it knew better – yeah, kinda like invading Iraq.

Egregiously the the senators had no idea how many illegal aliens with which they were dealing – estimated 12 million to 22 million. This depressing factor was compounded by the severely broken US Government processing system as evinced by the recent passport debacle and inability to supervise existing visas. The bill hinged on processing illegal aliens in a contorted administrative system that led to amnesty, that had no chance of successful implementation. Probably the worst aspect of the bill is that it did not protect the borders immediately. It effectively offered amnesty to encourage more illegal aliens to cross our unprotected borders.

Open Bush borders are the main route for narcotics, subversives and criminals into the US as well permitting a wave of desperate people to engulf the US that suffocates US institutions. Bush’s open borders makes a joke of the rule of law, but that has not seemed to trouble our president on other issues. His squalid commutation of sentence for his felon stooge Scooter Libby is a case in point. Also, let's hear it for our chief law enforcement officer: lost Alberto Gonzales, a Mexican/American poster boy, anchor baby who incompetently hit the big time. May this Immigration bill rest in peace. The American people should vote out of office all the senators who voted for the bill, for they did not have the interests of the US at heart.

Predatory big business interests that mainly sponsored the immigration bill also brought America China trade. This unfettered, almost unregulated trade has brought poisoned toothpaste, and food for our pets and humans to the US; even lead paint on children's toys and unsafe tires have been imported from China. Now we learn the Chinese intend to build a automobile factory in Mexico to run the cars to the US through a NAFTA regulation loophole to avoid import taxes. You can thank the Bushes and Clinton for NAFTA... The cranky Texan Perot had it right about NAFTA – A GIANT SUCKING SOUND FROM THE SOUTH.

We know Bush has no guts or brains when it comes to China. He started his administration by kow-towing to the Chinese when they illegally forced down a US military recon plane, and it has been down hill since then. Balance of trade favoring the Chinese has sky rocketed as the Chinese moved strategically into the American Lake: the Caribbean. From there it worked its way in economically and militarily into Latin America and Cuba. Bush has been forced to react to the import of deadly Chinese food products and dangerous manufactured goods by imposing some controls. The Chinese have responded aggressively by imposing restrictions on US imports to China, which are minimal compared to Chinese exports to the US. So, you would think the US has leverage in the fracas. But China holds massive amounts of US treasury notes that if sold recklessly will crush the value of the US dollar. Let's see how long it takes for Bush to cave to the Chinese pressure to permit Chinese retail garbage from entering the US. Big business has controlled a hands-off policy on China under Bush and the bills now are coming due. The American consumer should boycott Chinese products much the same as made in Japan stuff during WWII. SCREW WAL-MART, that sells mainly Chinese trash, should be a battle cry.

Vladimir Lenin, father of the Russian Revolution, in a specious effort to justify selling Russian raw materials to his enemy Western capitalist countries said that the Soviets will sell them the rope to hang themselves – well, it did not happen on the Soviet watch, but thanks to GW Bush, a haunting variation is happening to the US under the Communist Red Chinese regime. There is an insidious connection between China trade and the war in Iraq. Chinese are the main purchaser of US Treasury notes that enable Bush to carelessly waste billions on the Iraqi war.

The war in Iraq is already running out of control; the US command cannot account for 19 billion spent on Iraqi police and army that will not provide security. Unbelievably the Iraqis have hired 18 US lobbyists with the US Congress to protect their interests; i.e., more corruption, fraud and abuse. I call this inverted imperialism. Even Maliki, the democratically elected Shiite leader of Iraq, has condemned US forces for slaughtering Shiite civilians in Sadr city – US KIA is 100 in June, and wounded probably 6-7 times that number. Over 1200 Iraqis were killed in June, of which over 500 have been killed under General Petraeus’ nose in Baghdad. In Bush's last Saturday radio address, he begged for more patience in Iraq from the American people... Is he crazy? Or does he think the American people are stupid? Have him explain 5 years of aimless policy costing much US blood and treasure and the destruction of Iraq. Did he ever explain why the US troops were not greeted as liberators? Reason was Bush's father called for a Shiite revolt after the invasion of Kuwait, but then Read My Lips Bush typically got cold feet, refused assistance and watched as rebellious Shiites were gassed, tortured, and slaughtered by the tens of thousands under Saddam. The Shiites remembered and GW Bush is still paying the price in Iraq for his father's folly...

About the only policy in Iraq that has a glimmer of hope is recruiting Sunni sheiks to fight al Qaeda. This policy was set back when four cooperative Sunni chieftains were killed by a bomb in Baghdad last week while attending a meeting outside the protected Green Zone. Just for the record, I would like to know what US idiot set up that meeting without adequate security. Was he from State, CIA or the military Command? Ambassador Crocker may want to unfurl a banner at the US embassy in Baghdad: BORN TO LOSE. Is anyone in charge? Is anyone accountable?

The American people looked out their windows with revulsion as they saw the chaos in America that Bush wrought with his open borders, and concluded that his immigration bill legalized this unacceptable status quo. They reacted and halted the slide. Bush's ineptitude in Iraq is equal to his failures on immigration – ask the families of dead and maimed American fighting men and view the destruction of Iraq that went from First World to Third World status under GW Bush. Problem is the American voter does not see it through his narrow window. Most Americans understand how Bush screwed up on immigration, but do not yet feel the impact of Bush's Iraqi debacle and his sick China policy; but, they will. Let us hope they mobilize against them as they did his grand compromise immigration bill.

Bush's failure on the immigration bill twice indicated he cannot count votes in congress and that is the height of incompetence in any White House – to make the same mistake twice compounded the ineptitude. Mr. Bush has reached his level of incompetence and the American people are stuck with him to the end of his term; hopefully, our weak congress will prevent him from damaging the country further as his term comes to an end. Mr. Bush is unpopular with the American people for good reason. He is, however, adored by the Albanians. GULP! Mr. President, please check to see if you still have your wristwatch after your recent warm encounter with your Balkan bosom buddies... Colonel Robert E. Bartos USA RET

* Photograph: Etching by Francisco de Goya