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As the news goes from bad to worse in Iraq, some in Congress are looking for new ways to bring an end to the American occupation. I’ve learned today that a bipartisan group of House members—I was asked not to name names—is seeking to establish a commission that would quickly report back with recommendations leading to the withdrawal of American troops.
There are about 15 members involved in the group, but that number looks to be growing quickly. It wants to establish the commission quickly, so it can report back before General David Petraeus gives his scheduled review in September of the post-surge situation in Iraq. One option that the congressional group reportedly favors is the replacement of American troops in Iraq with forces from Egypt and from other Arab countries that receive substantial aid from the United States, such as Jordan and the Arab League. Whether these countries would agree to such a plan is an open question.
Meanwhile, there’s a rumor circulating in Baghdad and in some Washington circles that the CIA, in order to help the Bush Administration find a face-saving way to get out, is bribing Iraqi parliamentarians to vote for an end to the American troop presence. I have absolutely no reason to believe this is anything more than a rumor, but the very fact that it is being discussed indicates just how desperate the military (and political) situation is in Iraq.
I ran the bribery scenario past a former CIA official who closely follows affairs in Iraq. “The rumor mill in Baghdad is flooded with all kinds of wild stuff, including the comments you raised,” he told me. “The agency is pretty much out to lunch in Baghdad, so if there is any effort to contact parliamentarians it would ineffective. They simply do not have the reach, or depth of contacts to influence the Iraqi political system at any level. I think the plan is to go through the motions until September, and then pull out, blaming the Iraqis for the lack of progress and stability.”
Back in the early-1970s, when the war in Vietnam was hopelessly bogged down, Tommy and Dickey Smothers proposed during their Comedy Hour that the United States simply declare that it had won and pull out. It may come to pass that the Bush Administration turns to Smother Brothers diplomacy as a way to get out of Iraq.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”