God's Politics

the latest news on Iraq, Democrats’ Spanish-language debate, prisons and religious books, Asia-Pacific summit, Iran, student loans, Osama Bin Laden, church and immigration, and select commentaries

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Iraq . Delay Decision on Major Cuts, Petraeus SaysThe top American commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, has recommended that decisions on the contentious issue of reducing the main body of the American troops in Iraq be put off for six months,” No surprises expected in Petraeus’ Iraq report “Since spring, President Bush has publicly staked the future of his troop buildup strategy in Iraq on a series of briefings that an Army commander will deliver to Congress today and Tuesday” The surge must go on, Petraeus to tell Congress “The Bush administration’s most senior advisers on Iraq, the commander of US forces, General David Petraeus, and the ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, will launch a new drive today to defer any exit of troops until April 2008.” War testimony, while seminal, is unlikely to alter course “But even on the eve of the testimony, many in Washington do not anticipate major changes in Iraq. There are not enough votes in Congress to override the president’s course.” The bottom line: Drawdown “For all the drama surrounding the testimony that military and diplomatic leaders will deliver to Congress this week about the war in Iraq, the real show will play out afterward, as the White House and Democratic congressional leaders vie for control over when the U.S. will start scaling back its forces there.” Security in Iraq still elusive “When President Bush announced in January what the White House called a “New Way Forward” in Iraq, he said that Iraqi and American troops would improve security while the Iraqi government improved services. With less than a week to go before the White House delivers a congressionally mandated report on that plan, none of this has happened.”

Iraq-Polls & Troops. Record 60% seek date for pullout “On the eve of critical testimony to Congress by Gen. David Petraeus, most Americans are skeptical of what he will say and support setting a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq regardless of the military situation there.” Troops say surge works, barely “Many U.S. soldiers on the ground in Baghdad caution that improved security in the capital city will last only as long as the surge. If American troops were to leave, they say, the insurgents could be back within hours.”Iraqis’ Own Surge Assessment: Few See Security Gains – “Barely a quarter of Iraqis say their security has improved in the past six months, a negative assessment of the surge in U.S. forces that reflects worsening public attitudes across a range of measures, even as authorities report some progress curtailing violence.”

Iraq-Congress & Administration. Congress, White House Battle Over Iraq Assessment “Over the past several days, key Democrats have sought to blunt the impact of Petraeus’s testimony, which will likely cite military progress in Iraq, by raising doubts that the Petraeus assessment would truly be independent of the White House.” Democrats’ Struggle to Change Course in Iraq Has Produced Much Debate, Little Action “In the past eight months, there have been multiple resolutions opposing the troop increase, numerous proposals to establish timetables for withdrawal, plans to repeal the original congressional authorization that gave Bush the power to go to war and even an effort to cut off funds for the conflict. But Democrats have not succeeded in forcing a single, substantial change in the president’s policy,” Among Top Officials, ‘Surge’ Has Sparked Dissent, Infighting “For two hours, President Bush listened to contrasting visions of the U.S. future in Iraq. Gen. David H. Petraeus dominated the conversation by video link from Baghdad, making the case to keep as many troops as long as possible to cement any security progress. Adm. William J. Fallon, his superior, argued instead for accepting more risks in Iraq, officials said, in order to have enough forces available to confront other potential threats in the region.”

Dem Spanish-language debate. Democrats make history in debate “The first presidential debate conducted in Spanish and English marked a history-making moment in American politics Sunday night, though the candidates aimed more at embracing the nation’s fastest-growing minority group than in breaking new ground on the issues.” Democrats debate on Hispanic channel “The nation’s Latino voters took center stage as the Democratic presidential candidates debated on Spanish-language television for the first time.” Democrats Reach Out to Hispanic Voters “Democratic presidential candidates courted the fast-growing Hispanic electorate by debating on a Spanish-language television network, where they promised to swiftly overhaul the immigration system and accused Republicans and President Bush of stoking anti-Hispanic sentiment.”

Prisons & religious books. Prisons Purge Books on Faith From LibrariesIn federal prisons, chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries. The chaplains were directed by the Bureau of Prisons to clear the shelves of any books, tapes, CDs and videos that are not on a list of approved resources.”

Asia-Pacific summit. APEC claims progress on climate, trade “A divided world on the issue of climate change is starting to come together, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday as a summit of pan-Pacific leaders wrapped up.” Kyoto is the only way, Hu tells Howard “THE Prime Minister, John Howard, compromised on his Sydney climate change declaration to accommodate the tough stance of the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, supporting the United Nations and the Kyoto Protocol.”

Iran. Iranian Raises Possibility of an Intrusion Into Iraq “In a sharp escalation of a dispute over border fighting, an official Iranian delegation at a diplomatic conference here warned Sunday that if the Iraqi government could not stop militants from crossing into Iran and carrying out attacks, the Iranian authorities would respond militarily.” US plans military base near Iran “The Pentagon plans to build a military base near the Iran-Iraq border, according to the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper quoted a senior US army commander as saying that the base will be used to try and prevent the flow of weapons by Shia fighters into Iraq.”

Student loans. Congress Passes Overhaul of Student Aid ProgramsCongress gave final approval to a broad overhaul of federal student loan programs Friday, sharply cutting subsidies to lenders and increasing grants to needy students.” Congress passes student aid overhaul “Congress approved the largest overhaul of education funding in more than 60 years, a $20.9-billion program that would boost financial aid to students and reduce interest payments on their loans.”

Bin Laden. Bin Laden Releases Video as C.I.A. Issues WarningA videotaped message by Osama bin Laden, the first in nearly three years, compares the Iraq war to American blunders in Vietnam, criticizes the Democratic Party for failing to pull American troops from Iraq, and urges Americans to embrace Islam.”

Church & immigration. Church Expands Its Mission to Immigration Advocacy “Given his druthers, Mr. Mieses said, he would have stuck to the moral issues that are traditional for Pentecostal churches, preaching the virtues of sobriety and abstinence, warning against drugs, gangs and Satan. Events have made the tradition untenable, he said.”


Our real national pastime (Richard W. Garnett, USA Today) “With all due respect to baseball, America’s real national pastime is, and has long been, arguing about the place of religion in politics. In the USA, religious faith has always played a role in shaping policy and inspiring citizens, and those same citizens have always wondered, and sometimes worried, about this influence.”

Forever the victims (James Carroll, Boston Globe) “Talk about bad timing. It is unfortunate that the much-anticipated September accounting of “progress” in Iraq, centered on this week’s congressional testimony by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, overlaps with the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. American ears still ring from the blow we took on that crisp morning, and whenever the images of smoldering New York reappear on screens, the worst aspects of the trauma reassert themselves.”

Denying Children’s Health Care (New York Times) The Bush administration reached a deplorable, preordained verdict yesterday when it denied New York State permission to expand a valuable health insurance program to help cover middle-class children. The administration, which makes no effort to disguise its disdain for government insurance programs, imposed new, excessively stringent requirements last month that not only guaranteed New York’s denial but will make it nearly impossible for any state to expand coverage.”

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