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Bits and Pieces, August 20, 2004

August 20th, 2004

Iraq continues to be important for some, that is to say, the families of at least 20 people. George W. Bush may want us to forget about it until November, but the death toll is rising. 20 casualties in the past five days, double the death rate for coalition forces throughout the war.

This probably has something to do with the fact that the Iraqi soldiers that Bush wants us to believe are handling things–that’s what happens in sovereign nations, right?–are deserting by the hundreds. We point them to go into Najaf and kill their fellow Iraqis, and go figure, a lot of them are not extremely hip to the idea. And the powers that be don’t really want that known:

At an Iraqi national guard base near the border of Sadr City, the vast Baghdad slum that serves as al-Sadr’s support base and recruiting ground, 1st Sgt. Khalid Ali described the death threats he and other Iraqi troops have received from the Mahdi Army. …

But when Ali was asked about the number of guardsmen who have quit since al-Sadr’s latest uprising, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Vernon Sparkmon cut him off.

“Certain things, you can’t discuss,” Sparkmon told Ali. “If somebody asks that question, that’s, like, classified stuff.”

Oooookay. And by the way, “like”? “Stuff”? Has the military gone Valley Girl?

In the meantime, the Iraqi Olympic team, which Bush & Co. have been using as their poster boys for a happily-invaded Iraq, are not quite so happy about Bush using them for political gain. Apparently, Bush has been airing ads which say, “At this Olympics there will be two more free nations – and two fewer terrorist regimes.” The Iraqi athletes, however, do not feel the same way:

Speaking after winning their group stage at the Games in Greece, one player said he would take up arms against US troops in his country.

And the team attacked Mr Bush for running re-election campaign adverts featuring the Iraqi team.

“Iraq as a team does not want Mr Bush to use us for the presidential campaign,” said midfielder Salih Sadir. “He can find another way to advertise himself.”

Not exactly what Bush wants you to hear, but real nonetheless–and keep in mind, Bush & Co. want you to think that these were the most oppressed people under Saddam, and most grateful for U.S. liberation.

On another front, the Swift Boat Veterans for Smearing Kerry are not having that great a week. The New York Times and Washington Post (admittedly left-leaning publications, but hardly rags) have been tearing them to shreds. In short: the operation was funded by friends of Karl Rove and big-time GOP and Bush donors (most from Texas, wouldn’t ya know), and the claims made by the veterans are falling apart faster than you can say “smear campaign.” In case you need a scorecard, here’s one.

And at least for show, Kerry has condemned an ad run by MoveOn.org criticizing Bush’s record (no lies in them, BTW), but Bush still refuses to disavow the Swiftboat smear campaign. How long that can last, who knows–but when even Bill O’Reilly starts casting doubts, you know the case is weakening.

Another good-news point, Kerry has started hitting back hard against the attack ads. This is what he’s known to do late in his campaigns, not to let the other side get away with crap, and to fight back harder and harder. And it seems the time is ripe: Kerry is doing well in the polls, and has a huge electoral lead (Bush seems tied or slightly in the lead because his support is deep in some states, which is bad for him electorally); many say that the race is his to lose. Considering that Kerry got no post-convention bounce and that in the past two weeks has been outspent massively by Bush, this is a rather surprising, yet welcome, sign.

Other news: Oil is at $49 per barrel, perilously close to the psychologically critical $50 mark (some say $65 is not out of the question)–and a record high, and bad news for the economy. About 60 newspaper editors printed an “astroturf” (fake grass roots) form letter from Bush’s web site. A 55-year-old social studies teacher just wanted to see the president speak, but had her ticket ripped up in front of her face, because of a small Kerry/Edwards sticker on her blouse. See, she was a real security threat. Senator Ted Kennedy was “accidentally” put on a terror-alert list that prohibited him from flying, and despite repeated attempts to get Ridge to take his name off the list, the well-known Massachusetts senator was banned from flying for weeks. Yeah, an “accident.” Lots of al Qaeda terrorists named “Kennedy” are menacing the nation, I bet. Somebody in the Bush White House having fun, no doubt.

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