The Watering Hole: August 23rd – A short tale of two wars

War I fought to rid the world of a dictator (or so they said):

Deaths of military coalition forces: 4’792
Deaths of civilians due to coalition action: 100’000 est.

Cost: USD 792’313’100’000 and counting

War II fought to rid the world of a dictator

Deaths of military coalition forces: 1 (British Airman killed in a traffic accident in Italy)
Deaths of civilians due to coalition action: 64 – 90 casualties, but it is still an estimate.

Cost USD 896’000’000 est.

Don’t get me wrong here. I do not approve of war. But I do not approve of dictators either and my home country has been rid of the worst in 1945. It wouldn’t have been possible without using military force. But you can get rid of them in a smart way by supporting a people in the uprising, or you can go about it the dumb way by just going in with out a first, let alone a second thought.

This is our daily Open Thread. Just add your thoughts.

The Watering Hole: Operation Iraqi Freedom ends — August 19

On this day, one year ago, combat brigades completed their departure from Iraq, 12 days earlier than anticipated.  It was claimed that the war in Iraq was over — contradicting George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” bullshit from several years earlier — but it was necessary to leave behind 50,000 personnel, because the Iraqi government needed our support.

The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home. We have persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people—a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it is time to turn the page.
—President Obama’s Address on Iraq, August 31, 2010

Thank goodness that’s over…oh wait.

Number of Iraq coalition fatalities since August 31, 2010:  56 (4792, since 2003)

True cost of Iraq War:  $3 trillion and more

Our country is collapsing into a severe depression — financial and moral. Most of this country’s money is sitting in offshore accounts, and since our Congress won’t actually do anything like raise taxes so we have money, in case the President might get credit, we are effectively broke. Hence, we can’t afford to be at war. Wow, go figure, right?

This is George W. Bush’s unwinnable, endless, deadly folly, which has created more terrorists than we ever killed. Can we stop pretending there can be a positive ending to this, stop pouring our money into this black hole, and bring the troops home?

*crickets*

This is our daily open thread — Discuss among yourselves.

Walter Cronkite and the lead-up to the Iraq War

ThinkProgress

Walter Cronkite had a few things to say about the United States getting involved in a war in Iraq, and the consequences that might follow…

At a Drew University forum, Cronkite said he feared the war would not go smoothly, ripped the “arrogance” of Bush and his administration and wondered whether the new U.S. doctrine of “pre-emptive war” might lead to unintended, dire consequences.

“Every little country in the world that has a border conflict with another little country … they now have a great example from the United States,” Cronkite, 86, said in response to a question from Drew’s president, former Gov. Thomas Kean. [...]

While many are confident the United States would easily oust Saddam Hussein, Cronkite said he isn’t so sure. “The military is always more confident than circumstances show they should be,” he said.

Cronkite speculated that the refusal of many traditional allies, such as France, to join the war effort signaled something deeper, and more ominous, than a mere foreign policy disagreement.

“The arrogance of our spokespeople, even the president himself, has been exceptional, and it seems to me they have taken great umbrage at that,” Cronkite said. “We have told them what they must do. It is a pretty dark doctrine.”

Cronkite chided Congress for not looking closely enough at the war and attempting to ascertain a viable estimate of its eventual cost, particularly in light of Bush’s commitment to tax cuts.

“We are going to be in such a fix when this war is over, or before this war is over … our grandchildren’s grandchildren are going to be paying for this war,” Cronkite said.

“I look at our future as, I’m sorry, being very, very dark. Let’s see our cards as we rise to meet the difficulties that lie ahead,” he added, in a play on Bush’s dismissive remarks about France.

But Cronkite, who spent many days and nights on battlefields and in campgrounds with U.S. forces, also spoke of supporting the troops.

“The time has come to put all of our, perhaps distaste, aside, and give our full support to the troops involved. That is the duty we owe our soldiers who had no role in deciding this course of action,” Cronkite said.

We are still in Iraq, and we are in that fix — which will only get worse and worse…

The sad thing is that had Mr Cronkite still been the anchor of CBS News, and he’d said this on the air, he would have been viciously smeared by the frothing at the mouth war-mongerers, and fired without a second thought.

AIG Turns Back On Blind Amputee

How AIG has handled John Woodson’s claim is unconscionable.  While executives get bonuses and expensive junkets, Woodson received the least expensive route they could possible take.  He is a 51 year old truck driver for the KBR contracting firm who lost his leg when his truck hit a roadside bomb in Iraq.

An Oklahoma man who lost an eye and a leg in Iraq says the giant insurance company AIG refused to provide him a new plastic leg and fought to keep from paying for a wheelchair or glasses for the eye in which he has 30 percent vision.

Woodson is one of a number of injured contractors whose alleged difficulties with AIG were examined in the joint investigation.

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Six years of war in Iraq

Today is the anniversary of the United States’ attack on Iraq — a country which did not attack us on September 11, 2001, or any other time, and did not possess the means to do so.

Here are a few of the costs of George W. Bush’s deadly folly:

US military deaths:  4259

US military suicides (in Iraq):  177

US military wounded:  31,102

Iraqi deaths:  estimated to be 946,000 to 1.12 million

Lies told by the Bush administration to get us into Iraq:  935 (and counting)

Financial cost of Iraq war (US):  Approximately $656.1 billion (and counting)

Finally, as if all this is not enough, we have lost basic Constitutional protections — in the name of keeping us “safe.” Keith Olbermann says it well in this Special Comment regarding habeas corpus:

UPDATE: Think Progress has a timeline of the Iraq War here.

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Army Fired 11 Soldiers – Just For Being Gay!!

Recruiting is way down and the Army has consistently missed its goal for recruiting since the Iraq War has started.  They have even lowered their ‘high quality’ standards to include felons and have missed DoD benchmarks set for educational attainment and scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test.  The Army is dealing with all that and they are still firing soldiers just for being gay.  It just boggles the mind how they get anything accomplished, when they put priorities on trivial matters such as soldiers keeping their “sexuality hidden”.

In a statement released on Thursday, Moran said the discharged soldiers included an intelligence collector, a military police officer, four infantry personnel, a health care specialist, a motor-transport operator and a water-treatment specialist.

“How many more good soldiers are we willing to lose due to a bad policy that makes us less safe and secure?” asked Moran, a member of the House panel that oversees military spending.

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The truth about the run up to the Iraq war must be published – in the UK

This will shed a lot more light on the decision making in the run up to the Iraq war. I can hardly wait to see the documents.

Secret government discussions about the Iraq war are to be disclosed after an information tribunal today ordered the release of cabinet minutes from 2003.

The decision follows a lengthy battle by campaigners, who have argued that the public interest in learning what was said about the planned invasion outweighs the public interest in cabinet discussions being kept secret.

Ministers have strongly opposed the request, arguing that the Freedom of Information Act was never intended to allow for the publication of information of this kind. (read full article)

Nevermind this is starting in the UK, it will make it across the pond in a hurry.

Top Ten Myths about Iraq, 2008

Juan Cole – Informed Comment

1. Iraqis are safer because of Bush’s War. In fact, conditions of insecurity have helped created both an internal and external refugee problem:

‘ At least 4.2 million Iraqis were displaced. These included 2.2 million who were displaced within Iraq and some 2 million refugees, mostly in Syria (around 1.4 million) and Jordan (around half a million). In the last months of the year both these neighbouring states, struggling to meet the health, education and other needs of the Iraqi refugees already present, introduced visa requirements that impeded the entry of Iraqis seeking refuge. Within Iraq, most governorates barred entry to Iraqis fleeing sectarian violence elsewhere.’

2. Large numbers of Iraqis in exile abroad have returned. In fact, no great number have returned, and more Iraqis may still be leaving to Syria than returning.

3. Iraqis are materially better off because of Bush’s war. In fact, A million Iraqis are “food insecure” and another 6 million need UN food rations to survive. Oxfam estimated in summer, 2007, that 28% of Iraqi children are malnourished.

4. The Bush administration scored a major victory with its Status of Forces Agreement. In fact, The Iraqis forced on Bush an agreement that the US would withdraw combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, 2009,and would completely withdraw from the Country by the end of 2011. The Bush administration had wanted 58 long-term bases, and the authority to arrest Iraqis at will and to launch military operations unilaterally.

5. Minorities in Iraq are safer since Bush’s invasion. In fact, there have in 2008 been significant attacks on and displacement of Iraqi Christians from Mosul. In early January of 2008, guerrillas bombed churches in Mosul, wounding a number of persons. More recently, some 13,000 Christians have had to flee Mosul because of violence.

For Myths numbers 6-10, go here.

Read as well: Iraq: The Necessary Withdrawal by Juan Cole (in The Nation)

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Friendly fire in Iraq — and a coverup

Salon

The Army says no, but a graphic video and eyewitness testimony indicate that a U.S. tank killed two American soldiers. The mother of one soldier demands answers.  Mark Benjamin from Salon.com obtained evidence that the Army lied to Jean Feggins about her son’s death.

Once a cop, always a cop. Asked if she wanted to see a graphic battle video showing her son Albert bleeding to death, Jean Feggins, retired from the Philadelphia Police Department, said yes.

“Listen, I’ve moved dead bodies of people I don’t even know,” she told me, as she sat on a brown couch in the den of her West Philadelphia row house. “I need to know everything. Because he is not a stranger. That’s my baby. That’s my child.”

When Pfc. Albert Nelson died in Iraq in 2006, the Army first told Feggins that he might have been killed by friendly fire, and then that it was enemy mortars. She says she never believed the Army’s explanation. “I always felt like they were lying to me,” she said. “I could never prove it.”

“I would ask the casualty officer what was going on. I’d be told they are still working on the report,” she said. “They were still doing their investigation. What could I do? It’s the U.S. military. I had no control.”

She did not know that there was a video of his death until I contacted her recently. Salon has obtained evidence – including a graphic, 52-and-a-half minute video – suggesting that friendly fire from an American tank killed two U.S. soldiers in Ramadi, Iraq, in late 2006, and that the Army ignored the video and other persuasive data in order to rule that the deaths were due to enemy action. Feggins watched the video with me in her den.

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Blinded By The Right

Painful as it is to admit, we got duped.

Blinded By The Right
Original Words and Music “Blinded by The Light” by Bruce Springsteen, 1973
Additional Lyrics by Wayne A. Schneider, 2008

Madman Georgie-Porgy and contractors in an orgy, well he ain’t no diplomat
On the outs with his bouts as the alcoholic doubts his way is where it’s at
With the story of his glory feelin’ kinda gory I skipped the Sunday-go-round
With this very unnerving curving and swerving the calamity crashed to the ground.
Some half-hot all-snot was talkin’ up the hot spot, pointin’ his fingers, joinin’ his man
And some Bush-bot mascot was tied into a legal knot with his what-not in his hand
And then poor Scott, put on the spot, falsely told a bunch of rot and boned our soldiers in the sand
And some bloodshot drunken sot whispers Pappy’s within earshot, save the buckshot, don’t play your hand

Yes, we were blinded by the right,
Oh, got juiced by a ruse, another rumor in the night
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Bush to Blame-For Iraq Awash in Blood & “Missing” Weapons

This administration has set up very few systems to track weapons after they have been delivered. The million guns that Taos and other companies sold to Iraq in the last five years have been in danger of falling into the hands of sectarian or insurgent groups. An Amnesty International investigation found that, illicit gun suppliers, funded by the US and Iraqi governments, have inundated Iraq with a million guns since 2003.

Because of faulty or non-existent government tracking systems, many of those guns have gone missing, and some have turned up in the hands of insurgents.

Contracts with one of these companies, Taos Industries, account for almost half of the 217 million dollars Baghdad and Washington have officially spent to arm the Iraqi army, police and security forces employed by various Iraqi ministries.

Amnesty’s new report “Blood at the Crossroads: Making the Case for a Global Arms Trade Treaty” shines a light on the catastrophic human rights consequences of the kind of unrestrained arms trading that forms much of Taos’s business.

Taos Industries

David Hogan had been chief of foreign intelligence for the U.S. Army Missile Command at the Redstone Arsenal and retired from the military in 1989. He founded Taos Industries shortly after his retirement from the military. His corporation is the largest supplier of arms to Iraq since 2003.

From his vantage point as a former intelligence official in the missile command with knowledge of the “black budget” or secret military contracts used to buy such systems, Hogan was well aware that such opportunities could be very profitable.

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Army Suicide Rate Soars In Bush’s Quest for Oil

CNN

All of the widespread use of improvised explosive devises, multiple deployments, and the ambiguity of fighting combatants dressed as civilians is causing:

The rate of suicides among-active duty soldiers is on pace to surpass both last year’s numbers and the rate of suicide in the general U.S. population for the first time since the Vietnam war, according to U.S. Army officials.

As of August, 62 Army soldiers have committed suicide, and 31 cases of possible suicide remain under investigation, according to Army statistics. Last year, the Army recorded 115 suicides among its ranks, which was also higher than the previous year.

Army officials said that if the trend continues this year, it will pass the nation’s suicide rate of 19.5 people per 100,000, a 2005 figure considered the most recent by the government.

Another factor in the rise can be attributed to the increased pace of combat operations and financial and family troubles connected with deployments.

“Army leaders are fully aware that repeated deployments have led to increased distress and anxiety for both soldiers and their families,” Secretary of the Army Pete Geren said. “This stress on the force is validated by recent studies of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans reporting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression.”

The statistics were released Tuesday at a news conference announcing the completion of a study by mental health experts who the Veterans Administration asked to review its suicide prevention work and track numbers.

On Tuesday, the VA also announced findings from a study showing that suicides hit an all-time high in 2006 among younger U.S. military veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The numbers show record levels for men, but the statistics are lower for women.

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It was the oil all along — naturally

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship, Truthout

Oh, no, they told us, Iraq isn’t a war about oil. That’s cynical and simplistic, they said. It’s about terror and al-Qaeda and toppling a dictator and spreading democracy and protecting ourselves from weapons of mass destruction. But one by one, these concocted rationales went up in smoke, fire and ashes. And now the bottom line turns out to be … the bottom line. It is about oil.

Alan Greenspan said so last fall. The former chairman of the Federal Reserve, safely out of office, confessed in his memoir, “Everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” He elaborated in an interview with The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, “If Saddam Hussein had been head of Iraq and there was no oil under those sands, our response to him would not have been as strong as it was in the first Gulf War.”

Remember, also, that soon after the invasion, Donald Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, told the press that war was our only strategic choice. “We had virtually no economic options with Iraq,” he explained, “because the country floats on a sea of oil.”

Shades of Daniel Plainview, the monstrous petroleum tycoon in the movie, “There Will Be Blood.” Half-mad, he exclaims, “There’s a whole ocean of oil under our feet!” then adds, “No one can get at it except for me!”

No wonder American troops only guarded the Ministries of Oil and the Interior in Baghdad, even as looters pillaged museums of their priceless antiquities. They were making sure no one could get at the oil except … guess who?

Here’s a recent headline in The New York Times: “Deals With Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back.” Read on: “Four western companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.”

There you have it. After a long exile, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP are back in Iraq. And on the wings of no-bid contracts – that’s right, sweetheart deals like those given Halliburton, KBR and Blackwater. The kind of deals you get only if you have friends in high places. And these war profiteers have friends in very high places.  Keep reading→

Imagine that….

The war in Iraq was about the oil all along.  Not because the terrorists attacked us.  Not because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.  Not because the Iraqi people needed freeing.  Not because it’s our manifest destiny to spread democracy across the world.  None of that shit.

It’s a fact:  IT WAS THE OIL, STUPID.

And it will be the same for Iran.

Hey, if anyone stops by to read this post, and still supports this war and/or George W. Bush, I’d like to hear your story.

Eisenhower Was Right But For The Wrong Reasons

In his farewell address of 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned of a build-up of the “military-industrial comlpex.” He was right in that we be concerned about it, but the reasons we should have heeded his warning were not the ones he stated in his address. Eisenhower was concerned that so much of our annual budget would be devoted to the military-industrial complex, it might gain so much power that it could threaten the peace around the world. He also warned that it might one day dominate the scientific and academic world, to the point where government contracts replaced intellectual curiosity. Stranger still, he also feared that scientists might try to take over the world.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

You have to remember, it was the Fifties. Once the mysterious world of Radiation became common knowledge, the public tended to mistrust scientists. But after Kennedy pointed them toward the moon and said, “Look, something shiny,” they became heroes to the public. Even the ones that used to work for the Nazis. It turns out that the evils the military-industrial complex produced were unforeseen by Ike. “The United States finds itself in the anomalous position of being unable to pay for its own elevated living standards or its wasteful, overly large military establishment.”

In a great column on AlterNet, author Chalmers Johnson warns that, among other things, we have placed our economic trust in “Military Keynesianism”, described as “the mistaken belief that public policies focused on frequent wars, huge expenditures on weapons and munitions, and large standing armies can indefinitely sustain a wealthy capitalist economy. The opposite is actually true.” Also, we are spending “insane amounts of money” on defense projects that have no relation to national defense. But at the same time, we are keeping the tax burden on the richest among us at “strikingly low levels.” (Remember, before Bush, no civilization in the history of mankind lowered taxes during a time of war.) And finally, with our “devotion to militarism”, we are neglecting the other things that the money could have been spent on. Our infrastructure is crumbling; our education system is producing “graduates” that don’t know the first thing about the rest of the world; we fail to provide health care to our citizens while remaining one of the biggest polluters in the world (not the biggest, but more than our “fair share”) and “[m]ost important, we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer for civilian needs, an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing.”

(Please continue reading at Wayne’s Brain)

It’s Our Fault?

In the 2006 Congressional elections, a majority of American voters finally decided that a change was necessary, and gave the country a Democratic majority.  Our mandate to the 110th Congress was to do two things that the Republicans refused to do:  end the occupation of in Iraq; and hold Bush and Cheney accountable for their unconstitutional actions.  Today, Congress is no closer to accomplishing those goals than they were in January of 2007.  So today, Wayne walked into the village to meet our US Representative, Congressman John Hall (D, NY-19) to ask him why the Democrats have failed to do that.  (You can read his account of it at his Brain.)  The answer he got was, in essence, that they didn’t have the votes to do it.  He was told that we didn’t send enough Democrats to Congress in the 2006 mid-terms to accomplish the goals we gave them.  In other words, it’s our fault that our troops are still dying in Iraq, and Bush, Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Condaleeza Rice, Don Rumsfeld, the entire PNAC and WHIG contingents, etal, are not facing criminal charges or possible impeachment.

That’s right, we turned out in amazing numbers, and voted in as many anti-Iraq war candidates as we possibly could (although we were foiled in Connecticut by the Lieberman campaign’s slimy tactics as aided by Republican party leaders), and we thought that we had done our jobs as American citizens.  Apparently, the new Democratic majority must have thought that, once voted in, their job, as demanded by we the voters, was also done.   “We don’t have the numbers” is the constant excuse from every Democratic Senator and Congressman questioned about why they have not fulfilled their mandate.  So?  Isn’t it part of their job to try to sway others to their own positions?  Have they even tried?  The least that they could do, to show those of us who gave them our trust to do the right thing, is to try.   But not only have they not even tried, the first thing the 110th Congress did was to take the possibility of impeachment off the table, unleashing a new crime wave from the Bush administration.   Yes, there has been an increase in the number of investigations, but even these are rendered toothless by this administration’s patented cloak of “executive privilege”, which is blatantly unconstitutional.  Yet, this is somehow the voters’ fault in not electing enough Democrats.  We write letters to our representatives and to newspapers, we email news broadcasts and political talk shows, we sign petitions and we march in the streets.  We blog and we blog and we blog about the lies, the Iraq disaster and the Bush criminal cabal, yet it’s our fault that the shredding of our Constitution goes on, torture is done in the name of freedom and democracy, and the Democrats are still helping Bush fund his illegal war, because we didn’t vote in enough Democrats.  Well, too damned bad.  We did everything in our power as citizens.  We can’t give the Democrats in Congress a new spine or a set of balls (or Thatchers), but we should still be able to expect and demand that they will do everything, everything in their power as Representatives and Senators, and as Americans, to uphold the Constitution of the United States.  With all due respect, Congressman Hall, it is NOT our fault.  YOU are the one who took the oath, you and your newly-elected Democratic brethren.  It is YOUR fault, nor ours.

When The Army Won’t Defend Religious Freedom

Though raised a Christian, Army Specialist Jeremy Hall, while stationed in Iraq, came to have different beliefs about the existence of God. He became an atheist. Little did he realize that while he, along with every other person who serves in our military forces, took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, some who took that oath did not take it to mean they had to support not having any religion at all. Specialist Hall had to be transferred out of Iraq due to threats he received because of his atheism. Even at his new assignment, Fort Riley, Kansas, the threats and intimidation continued. What I want to know is, how could so many people be ignorant about what religious freedom means?

When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.

But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism, Specialist Hall wrote in a sworn statement. “People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” Major Welborn said, according to the statement.

Please continue reading at Pick Wayne’s Brain

Parents’ Pain and Frustration on Veteran’s Day.

From The Bangor Daily News, via CommonDreams.

I found this article over at CommonDreams, and thought it was a very moving account of the Cotes’ anxiety over having a son serving in Iraq, but their unwaivering support of our troops.  As well as their frustration over Senator Susan Collins’ wobbly stance regarding, but continued support of, George W. Bush’s vanity war.

Veterans Day holds a special significance for us as the parents of a sergeant tank commander in the U.S. Army serving in Iraq.We could not be more proud of our son’s service to his country, and we could not appreciate more the sacrifices being made by families with loved ones in Iraq. However, we could not be more outraged by the Bush administration’s bungled handling of this war, or Sen. Susan Collins’ continued support for it.

President Bush has had more than four and a half years to implement a successful policy, but under his leadership the situation in Iraq has gone from bad to worse to where we are now. We have American men and women dying while policing someone else’s religious civil war.

Instead of accepting the reality of the situation on the ground and listening to the American people, the president continues to stand by a failed strategy and Sen. Collins follows him down this dangerous path, at times saying that she is against the war but refusing to support binding legislation to end it. She is the lone remaining member of our state’s congressional delegation to endorse the president’s failed policy.

In Maine and across the country, people are crying out for our leaders to change the course in Iraq and bring our troops home safely. Leading the charge are thousands of Americans who have served in Iraq or whose loved ones are serving in Iraq.

This is not a small group of activists calling for an end to the war; it is not the typical anti-war crowd. We have never been particularly political ourselves, but this issue goes beyond politics. Americans are firmly united around bringing our troops home, but President Bush and Sen. Collins stand in the way.

Sen. Collins won’t even explain her position to her constituents, having turned down an invitation to a community town hall to discuss Iraq in Orono this summer. As constituents of Sen. Collins, and as the parents of a soldier serving in Iraq, we find it personally insulting that Sen. Collins won’t answer questions from her constituents on the war in such forums.

Read the rest of the article here.

Support the Troops, Bring Them Home Now.