[The] visit been widely criticized for taking place before a new government was fully formed.
AP - Pakistanis burn a U.S. flag Tuesday
and Richard Boucher.
Barack Obama's speech on race relations played well in many circles and helped secure him the endorsement of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson last Friday. On Sunday, Mr. Obama was also endorsed by a lesser-known but more surprising figure -- a constitutional law professor who headed the Office of Legal Counsel for both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
Doug Kmiec is a respected professor at Pepperdine Law School, where Ken Starr serves as dean. He certainly hasn't shown much previous inclination towards political apostasy -- earlier this month he was still serving as co-chair of the Mitt Romney campaign's Committee on the Courts and the Constitution.
Mr. Kmiec made his endorsement known in a blog posting on Slate.com so he clearly wasn't looking for too big a splash. But while he is unlikely to be joined by a posse of other Reaganites, his reasoning deserves some attention.
He begins by acknowledging that Mr. Obama holds views far more liberal than his on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. However, he apparently has embraced the "audacity of hope" in those areas: "I am convinced based upon his public pronouncements and his personal writing that on each of these questions he is not closed to understanding opposing points of view, and as best as it is humanly possible, he will respect and accommodate them."
Then he moves to the crux of his decision, which comes down to the Iraq War: "Our president has involved our nation in a military engagement without sufficient justification or clear objective. In so doing, he has incurred both tragic loss of life and extraordinary debt jeopardizing the economy and the well-being of the average American citizen."
Mr. Kmiec then goes on to assert: "The office of the presidency, which it was once my privilege to defend... has been distorted beyond its constitutional assignment."
Supporters of the Iraq War have every reason to question why Mr. Kmiec would endorse someone who favors a withdrawal within 16 months, with potentially devastating consequences. However, his apostasy is a sign that the Bush administration's intelligence blunders on Iraq, its refusal to consider seeking a Constitutional declaration of war against Saddam Hussein and its shifting justifications for the conflict may be starting to cost Republicans some traditional support they've long enjoyed on the right.
-- John Fund
March 24 (Bloomberg) -- Four U.S. soldiers were killed in a bomb attack in Baghdad, taking the American death toll in the Iraq War to at least 4,000, according to the independent icasualties.org group that tallies fatalities in the conflict.
The Multi-National Division-Baghdad soldiers were on patrol in the south of the Iraqi capital yesterday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, the U.S. military said today in an e- mailed statement.
The deaths, days after the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, occurred on the same day Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi government and the American embassy, was hit with mortar fire, and more than 50 people died in attacks across the country.
``He's grieved by the moment,'' White House press secretary Dana Perino said when asked about President George W. Bush's reaction to the 4,000 deaths milestone. ``He bears the responsibility for the decisions that he's made.''
Perino said the president is ``committed'' to winning in Iraq so fallen troops won't have made a sacrifice ``in vain.''
As the war enters its sixth year, there are calls from some U.S. lawmakers to accelerate a drawdown of troops after an extra 30,000 soldiers were deployed last year to halt violence between majority Shiites and minority Sunnis. Some estimates put the cost of the Iraq War as high as $3 trillion.
Costs and Consequences
Bush should change direction on the conflict and provide a clear assessment of its costs and consequences, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez said on March 22 when he delivered the Democratic party's weekly radio address.
Bush said on March 19, the anniversary of the invasion, that the extra forces he ordered into Iraq last year increased security and paved the way for a ``major strategic victory'' in the war against terrorism.
Monthly U.S. military deaths have increased from the 14 soldiers killed in December last year, the lowest since February 2004, according to Defense Department statistics.
There were 34 military deaths in January and 25 in February. As many as 26 have died in March, according to Bloomberg calculations using Defense Department statistics and press statements.
Three U.S. soldiers were killed in an attack northwest of Baghdad two days ago, the military said in a separate statement.
U.S. military deaths were at 3,999, according to Bloomberg's calculations. Agence France-Presse, the Associated Press and other media said the tally was 4,000.
More than 29,000 soldiers have been wounded, 45 percent of them so seriously they haven't returned to duty.
As many as 89,778 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the invasion, according to the latest report on the Web site of Iraqbodycount.org, a U.K.-based research group.
``We regret every casualty, every loss,'' Vice President Dick Cheney told reporters in Jerusalem, when asked about the number of U.S. dead.
When asked about how that jibes with recent polls that show about two-thirds of Americans say the fight in Iraq is not worth it, Cheney replied, "So?"Here is the interview (<-- click)
There are moments — increasingly rare in risk-abhorrent modern campaigns — when politicians are called upon to bare their fundamental beliefs. In the best of these moments, the speaker does not just salve the current political wound, but also illuminates larger, troubling issues that the nation is wrestling with.
Inaugural addresses by Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt come to mind, as does John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on religion, with its enduring vision of the separation between church and state. Senator Barack Obama, who has not faced such tests of character this year, faced one on Tuesday. It is hard to imagine how he could have handled it better.
Mr. Obama had to address race and religion, the two most toxic subjects in politics. He was as powerful and frank as Mitt Romney was weak and calculating earlier this year in his attempt to persuade the religious right that his Mormonism is Christian enough for them.
It was not a moment to which Mr. Obama came easily. He hesitated uncomfortably long in dealing with the controversial remarks of his spiritual mentor and former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who denounced the United States as endemically racist, murderous and corrupt.
On Tuesday, Mr. Obama drew a bright line between his religious connection with Mr. Wright, which should be none of the voters’ business, and having a political connection, which would be very much their business. The distinction seems especially urgent after seven years of a president who has worked to blur the line between church and state.
Mr. Obama acknowledged his strong ties to Mr. Wright. He embraced him as the man “who helped introduce me to my Christian faith,” and said that “as imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me.”
Wisely, he did not claim to be unaware of Mr. Wright’s radicalism or bitterness, disarming the speculation about whether he personally heard the longtime pastor of his church speak the words being played and replayed on YouTube. Mr. Obama said Mr. Wright’s comments were not just potentially offensive, as politicians are apt to do, but “rightly offend white and black alike” and are wrong in their analysis of America. But, he said, many Americans “have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagree.”
Mr. Obama’s eloquent speech should end the debate over his ties to Mr. Wright since there is nothing to suggest that he would carry religion into government. But he did not stop there. He put Mr. Wright, his beliefs and the reaction to them into the larger context of race relations with an honesty seldom heard in public life.
Mr. Obama spoke of the nation’s ugly racial history, which started with slavery and Jim Crow, and continues today in racial segregation, the school achievement gap and discrimination in everything from banking services to law enforcement.
He did not hide from the often-unspoken reality that people on both sides of the color line are angry. “For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation,” he said, “the memories of humiliation and fear have not gone away, nor the anger and the bitterness of those years.”
At the same time, many white Americans, Mr. Obama noted, do not feel privileged by their race. “In an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero-sum game,” he said, adding that both sides must acknowledge that the other’s grievances are not imaginary.
He made the powerful point that while these feelings are not always voiced publicly, they are used in politics. “Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan coalition,” he said.
Against this backdrop, he said, he could not repudiate his pastor. “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community,” he said. “I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother.” That woman whom he loves deeply, he said, “once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street” and more than once “uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”
There have been times when we wondered what Mr. Obama meant when he talked about rising above traditional divides. This was not such a moment.
We can’t know how effective Mr. Obama’s words will be with those who will not draw the distinctions between faith and politics that he drew, or who will reject his frank talk about race. What is evident, though, is that he not only cleared the air over a particular controversy — he raised the discussion to a higher plane.
Because of the invasion of Iraq, "America's strategic position in the world has worsened," said Josef Joffe, the editor and publisher of Die Zeit, a German weekly that's sympathetic to United States. "From a coldly realist perspective, Iraq was the wrong war against the wrong foe at the wrong time."
The removal of Saddam Hussein strengthened Iran and "by entangling itself in an interminable civil war, the U.S. has lost power to spare," Joffe said.
"Since 9/11, the United States has been exporting fear and anger rather than the more traditional values of hope and optimism. Suspicions of American power have run deep," Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state under Bush, and Joseph Nye, a Pentagon official under President Clinton, wrote in a December report published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Entire article here