Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Retirements Confound Democratic House Quest

How does that song go, again? Let's see: "Happy Days are Here Agaiinnn!"

Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank’s announcement Monday that he won’t run for re-election marks the 17th Democratic departure from the House this year, compared with only six Republicans. Those numbers don’t bode well for Democrats in their effort to take back control of the House in next year’s elections, Politico and The Hill report.

Democrats and Republicans alike see tough times ahead for House Democrats. “Members of the House don’t focus on their own politics. They focus on whether they are going to be in the majority and can push an agenda,” former Democratic Alabama Rep. Artur Davis told Politico.

“There are very few Democrats who see the prospect of the House shifting. I predict there will be five to 10 other senior Democrats that will announce their retirements in the coming months.”

The Democratic retirements fit a historical pattern. When either party loses a majority, its representatives get discouraged — and some hang it up. After the GOP ceded its House control in 2006, 27 Republicans opted for retirement, compared with six Democrats.

“Members of Congress don’t retire when things are good. They just don’t,” Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak told The Hill. “I think they’re looking at it right now and saying, ‘It’s unlikely we’re going to win the House back. If anything, it’s likely we won’t have the Senate, and the White House is a 50-50 shot, at best.’”

Democrats also may be worried that it will be many years before their party returns to power in the House, especially with the economy looking like it won’t recover anytime soon, Chris Perkins, a GOP pollster in Texas, told The Hill.

“What it does is allow the Republicans to build a narrative,” he said. “It makes the recruiting efforts for the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee]that much harder, when potential candidates see a lot of senior members bailing.”

Democrats also are fearful of the recent redistricting moves that will make some of their races a lot more difficult. Frank cited changes in his district’s boundaries as a reason for retirement.

California Rep. Dennis Cardoza, whose district was greatly reshaped, put the problem bluntly, telling Politico: “You have to represent people [who] you’ve never represented before. To represent nearly half of new voters . . . well, that’s not my idea of a good time.”

Some of the retirees aren’t too happy with their party leaders. Four of the nine Democrats who are departing and not seeking another office in 2012 voted against Nancy Pelosi as House minority leader.

Cardoza is upset with the White House, saying he is “dismayed by the administration’s failure to understand and effectively address the current housing foreclosure crisis.
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Saturday, November 19, 2011

What Is a Progressive, or, is Obama a Totalitarian Fascist?

Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States...Image via Wikipedia

The first appearance of modern totalitarianism in the Western world wasn’t in Italy or Germany but in the United States of America. How else would you describe a country where the world’s first modern propaganda ministry was established; political prisoners by the thousands were harassed, beaten, spied upon, and thrown in jail simply for expressing private opinions; the national leader accused foreigners and immigrants of injecting treasonous "poison" into the American bloodstream; [and] newspapers and magazines were shut down for criticizing the government[?]

[N]early a hundred thousand government propaganda agents were sent out among the people to whip up support for the regime and its war; college professors imposed loyalty oaths on their colleagues; nearly a quarter-million goons were given legal authority to intimidate and beat "slackers" and dissenters; and leading artists and writers dedicated their crafts to proselytizing for the government.

Obama calls himself a "progressive". I take him at his word...T

When is the last time you heard a liberal describe himself as a "liberal"? It’s probably been a long time. These days, those on the left are more likely to call themselves "progressives."

Writing in The New York Times, Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs said there have been two progressive eras — one in the early 20th century and the second under Franklin Roosevelt. He called on modern liberals to usher in a third era.

But what exactly is "progressivism"? To many people, the term "Progressive Era" evokes fond caricatures of Teddy Roosevelt and such reforms as safe food, the elimination of child labor and the eight-hour work day. Yet real progressivism was far more sinister. Here is how Jonah Goldbergdescribes the World War I presidency of Woodrow Wilson:

The first appearance of modern totalitarianism in the Western world wasn’t in Italy or Germany but in the United States of America. How else would you describe a country where the world’s first modern propaganda ministry was established; political prisoners by the thousands were harassed, beaten, spied upon, and thrown in jail simply for expressing private opinions; the national leader accused foreigners and immigrants of injecting treasonous "poison" into the American bloodstream; [and] newspapers and magazines were shut down for criticizing the government[?]

It gets worse. According to Goldberg:

[N]early a hundred thousand government propaganda agents were sent out among the people to whip up support for the regime and its war; college professors imposed loyalty oaths on their colleagues; nearly a quarter-million goons were given legal authority to intimidate and beat "slackers" and dissenters; and leading artists and writers dedicated their crafts to proselytizing for the government.

At the time of the Wilson presidency, progressives did not view the exercise of state power and the violation of individual rights as a war-time exception to be set aside in times of peace. To the contrary, Herbert Croly (founding editor of the New Republic), John Dewey (father of progressive education), Walter Lippmann (perhaps the century’s most influential political writer), Richard Ely (founder of the American Economic Association) and many others saw war as an opportunity to rid the country of classical liberalism and the doctrine of laissez faire.

Wilson, our first Ph.D. in the White House, made clear his complete rejection of the ideas of Thomas Jefferson and classical liberalism in his books and other writings. As Ronald Pestritto notes, liberty in Wilson's view was "not found in freedom from state actions but instead in one’s obedience to the laws of the state."

The primary domestic objective of progressives was to create in peacetime what Wilson had accomplished during war. They were able to do so a little more than a decade later. Franklin Roosevelt was assistant secretary of the Navy under Wilson, and when he led Democrats back to the White House in 1932 he brought with him an army of intellectuals and bureaucrats who shared the Progressive-Era vision. Indeed, most of the "alphabet soup" of agencies set up during the Great Depression were continuations of various boards and committees set up during World War I.

At that time it was commonplace for intellectuals on the left to be enamored of Lenin’s communist regime in Russia. And almost everyone who was enamored of Lenin was also an admirer of Mussolini’s fascist government in Italy. For example, General Hugh "Iron Pants" Johnson, who ran Roosevelt’s National Recovery Administration (NRA) kept a picture of Mussolini hanging on his wall. The admiration was often mutual. Some writers for publications in Nazi Germany and fascist Italy wrote of their fascination with Roosevelt’s New Deal. As Goldberg explains:

The reason so many progressives were intrigued by both Mussolini’s and Lenin’s "experiments" is simple: they saw their reflection in the European looking glass. Philosophically, organizationally, and politically the progressives were as close to authentic, homegrown fascists as any movement America has ever produced. [They were] militaristic, fanatically nationalist, imperialist, racist, deeply involved in the promotion of Darwinian eugenics, [and] enamored of the Bismarckian welfare state.

The progressives saw the state as properly involved in almost every aspect of social life. Herbert Croly envisioned a government that would even regulate who could marry and procreate. In this respect, he reflected the almost universal belief of progressives in eugenics. These days, there is a tendency to think that interest in racial purity began and ended in Hitler’s Germany. In fact, virtually all intellectuals on the left in the early 20th century believed in state involvement in promoting a better gene pool. These included H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Sidney and Beatrice Webb (founders of Fabian Socialism), Harold Laski (the most respected British political scientist of the 20th century) and John Maynard Keynes (the most famous economist of the 20th century). Pro-eugenics articles routinely appearedin the left-wing New Statesman, the Manchester Guardian and in the United States in the New Republic.

One of the ugliest stains on American public policy during the 20th century was the internment of 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II by the Roosevelt Administration. Another stain is the resegregation of the White House under Wilson. Bruce Bartlett argues that these acts were consistent with the personal racial views of the presidents and that the Democratic party has along history of racial bias it would like to forget.

The worst excesses on the right in the 20th century are usually associated with Senator Joe McCarthy; the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), including pressuring Hollywood actors to reveal their political activities and name the identities of their colleagues; and domestic surveillance of political enemies.

Yet all of these activities have roots in the Progressive Era as well. Joe McCarthy started his political life as a Democrat (and later switched to be a Republican) in Wisconsin — the most pro-progressive state in the union. As Goldberg observes, "Red baiting, witch hunts, censorship and the like were a tradition in good standing among Wisconsin progressives and populists." The HUAC was founded by another progressive Democrat, Samuel Dickstein, to investigate German sympathizers. During the "Brown scare" of the 1940s, radio journalist Walter Winchell read the names of isolationists on the radio, calling them "Americans we can do without."

Civilian surveillance under American presidents in the modern era (for example under Republican Richard Nixon and under Democrats John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson) are extensions of what went on earlier in the century. However, modern surveillance does not begin to compare in magnitude to what went on during the Wilson and Roosevelt presidencies.

Bottom line: the next time you hear someone call himself a "progressive," ask him if he knows the historical meaning of that term.
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Congressional Supercommittee Is Super Divided - But has Time-Tested Solution at Hand!

"The Kennedy across-the-board tax rates in the 1960s. The Reagan tax cuts in the 1980s, followed by the broader and bipartisan tax reforms of 1986 that got rid of a number of tax breaks, exemptions and other loopholes in order to lower the rates, cutting the top marginal rate to 28 percent as Toomey would do now. And let's not forget the Republicans' pro-growth capital gains tax cut President Clinton signed in his second term that unleashed a wave of high tech capital investment that led to full employment and a budget surplus"

So we are apparently to see from this "Super Committee" a package of phony budget cuts and massive real time defence cuts, all because the democrats will agree to cut NOTHING after Osama has increased spending by 4 trillion $ in 3 years, more that all the previous administrations in US history, combined, from Washington through Bush.

The above quote demonstrates 2 things:

- 1: There is a time tested alternative that would work, as it always has, and would raise revenues, as the democrats demand, which also means ...

- 2 The democrats DON'T WANT REVENUE, they want to tear down those who have, in the name of fairness. Whatever happened to the concept of "a rising tide lifts all boats"?

Conclusion: It ain't gonna happen! Our best alternative for now is to let the sequestration occur, and next time, don't cave when time to raise the debt limit comes. When Romney or Newt is president, and we control the Senate, all this can be reversed...T

Sen. Pat Toomey, the GOP's fiercest anti-tax warrior, stunned the supercommittee when he proposed raising taxes to break the impasse over cutting the government's monster debt.

The freshman Pennsylvania Republican has impeccable conservative credentials. Before he ran for the Senate last year, he ran the Club for Growth, an anti-tax, pro business political action committee that supported GOP House and Senate candidates who fought tax hikes, even knocking off some pro-tax Republican incumbents in party primaries.

Toomey's move was denounced by the Democrats who refused play his game, saying his plan didn't do enough to raise revenues. It also opened up a deeply divisive split in his own party.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, the Republican co-chair of the supercommittee, has sided with Toomey, as have other Republicans, including party leaders. But dozens of members see his plan as a betrayal of the GOP's position against raising taxes at any time, especially in the middle of a weak, high unemployment economy.

Rep. Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, who calls Hensarling one of his mentors, gathered more than 70 signatures from House Republicans this week on a fire-breathing letter to the panel's leadership that called any tax increases "irresponsible and dangerous to the health of the United States."

But the headlines and the stories about Toomey's tax plan leave out a critical component. While it would cap a number of itemized deductions that taxpayers take, thus raising their taxes, it would also offset those increases by lowering the income tax rates across the board.

Under Toomey's plan, all of the income tax rates would be reduced by as much as 20 percent -- lowering the top rate from 35 percent to 28 percent. The 10 percent bottom tax rate, created under President George W. Bush's 2001 tax cut law, would drop to 8 percent.

The details of these deduction caps are not clear right now and, as a chief analyst of a major business lobbying group told me this week, "the devil is in the details."

Overall, Toomey's plan would reportedly raise $400 billion in additional tax revenue, though an estimated $110 billion of that would be derived from higher economic growth and increased employment.

Supercommittee Democrats argue that his plan would hand huge tax cuts to the wealthy. But GOP aides say that most people in higher income brackets usually take many more deductions to lower their taxable income, so they would on average see their taxes go up.

President Obama and the Democrats are fixated on raising taxes on people who make more than $200,000, as well as small businesses who file as individual taxpayers, major corporations, and investors by raising their capital gains tax rate.

But these taxpayers pay the lion's share of all income taxes. Raise taxes on capital gains and you will get less venture capital investment and a weaker economy. Fewer Americans will sell assets they hold to plow their gains into higher performing, growth investments if the capgains tax rates take a bigger bite out of their profits.

Without knowing the full details of Toomey's plan, he is following a tried and true fiscal path to economic growth. We've had many recessions and downturns in the last five decades, and lowering the tax rates have always helped our economy recover and made it stronger than before.

The Kennedy across-the-board tax rates in the 1960s. The Reagan tax cuts in the 1980s, followed by the broader and bipartisan tax reforms of 1986 that got rid of a number of tax breaks, exemptions and other loopholes in order to lower the rates, cutting the top marginal rate to 28 percent as Toomey would do now.

And let's not forget the Republicans' pro-growth capital gains tax cut President Clinton signed in his second term that unleashed a wave of high tech capital investment that led to full employment and a budget surplus.

Even the Bush tax cuts in in 2001 and 2003 helped us get through several financial catastrophes, cut the deficit in half and produced a 4.7 percent unemployment rate in 2007 just before the subprime, home foreclosure scandal drove us into severe recession.

Still, it is hard to see this bitterly divided supercommittee producing a well thought out growth incentive plan under such a tight deadline, before Thanksgiving.

The driving force behind its creation in the federal debt limit battle was a series of annual budget deficits under Barack Obama's presidency that climbed to $1.5 trillion in his first year and hit $1.3 trillion this year. The total federal debt now stands at a whopping $15 trillion.

But the members of the supercommittee say they are no nearer to a deal now than when they began. They have agreed on a large number of spending cuts, but clearly the stumbling block remains the issue of taxes. Maybe the best course would be to set that issue aside for the time being, turning it over to the tax-writing panels of Congress, and concentrate on a plan to cut spending.

The supercommittee's mission is to cut at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years. That comes out to a little over $100 billion a year out of a nearly $4 trillion annual budget that wastes more than that sum each and every year.

If they can't agree on even that amount in savings, then I say, let the automatic budget cuts -- triggered under the debt limit deal -- begin.
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Updates to the Site

A brief message to update everyone on changes to this site, and thanks so much for your readership these many years!

- 1: I have changed the e-mail subscription newsletter so that it now contains only a paragraph or two of text, with links pointing to the full post, here on the site. As it had worked out, people were just reading the emails, and never visiting the site, and I have made an effort to make the site more interactive. So, to that end...

-2: There are newer, more user friendly social media sharing buttons to allow more sharing amongst site visitors (see each post's footer!), and...

- 3: I have added Poll questions, which will rotate. You can vote multiple times, and for more than one answer. The questions will rotate every few days. Currently, the questions ask: "Worst US President?". You will find the poll in the right hand column, just below the list of followers. Please come join me, and vote early, and often (as do the democrats each and every election cycle!)

Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy the site!...Ted

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ObamaCare Goes to Court: A historic showdown on the constitutional limits of federal power

Category:Federal courthouses of the United StatesImage via WikipediaCommerce power under the Constitution meant the power to regulate, meaning in the English language of the day, "to make regular" the rules under which the various states would conduct trade and commerce. It was NEVER intended to be a huge federal entitlement to control all US and individual commercial liberties. The constitution, after all, was adopted to redress the failings of the articles of confederation, under which the various states had placed tariffs on each other, and adopted differing currencies.
This was so clearly the intent of the founders that it cannot be disputed. Only ignored.
Well, not this time. Obama care is such a monstrous expansion of federal power, that were it to be upheld, there would no longer be ANY limitation on what the federal government could command the individual to do, as this article makes clear.
For these reasons, the US Supreme Court will overturn Obama care this spring, and that outcome is not seriously in doubt...T
The "constitutionality" of the Obama health care law, Harvard Law School's
Laurence Tribe wrote in the New York Times earlier this year, "is open and
shut," adding that the challenge against it is "a political objection in legal
In announcing yesterday that it will consider the law's constitutionality,
the Supreme Court said it would give an historic five-and-a-half hours to oral
arguments. Perhaps by his Cambridge standard, Mr. Tribe thinks the nine Justices
are a little slow. We prefer to think this shows the Court recognizes the
seriousness of the constitutional issues involved. It makes those who cavalierly
dismissed the very idea of a challenge two years ago look, well,
constitutionally challenged.

Other critics of the constitutional case have suggested that its outcome
before the High Court will be a wholly "political" decision, a repeat of
Bush v. Gore. We trust the justices won't fall for this slur against
their reputation.

The issue at the heart of the ObamaCare challenge brought by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business is whether the federal government has the constitutional authority, under the Commerce Clause, to order everyone in the United States to purchase health insurance—the so-called "individual mandate." If that is so, critics argue, then there is no limit to what commercial activity the government can command. And make no mistake: Future governments would order specific "commercial" activity under this authority.

The latest spin to be directed at the constitutional challenges is that conservative judges on the lower courts are divided. In fact, it isn't just conservatives who are divided over the law's constitutionality. One of the appellate judges on the 11th Circuit in Atlanta who overturned the law in the case the High Court accepted is a Democrat. Open and shut? Not quite.

Among the conservative opinions on behalf of ObamaCare in the lower courts, the two that we'd call the most idiosyncratic and misguided were issued separately by Judges Laurence Silberman and Jeffrey Sutton.

Judge Silberman, in an opinion joined by Judge Harry Edwards, acknowledges that Justice's lawyers defending the ObamaCare individual mandate couldn't cite "any doctrinal limiting principles" to this new, expansive reading of the Commerce Clause. But somehow Judge Silberman found a justification anyway in a 1942 Court precedent involving limits on wheat-growing for personal consumption, because these personal decisions ultimately might affect interstate commerce.

As a member of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Silberman may have felt he was bound by that precedent as he interprets it. But the Supreme Court can revisit such precedents, or their misapplication, especially in light of its own more recent attempts to put some limits on federal government power under the Commerce Clause.

Judge Silberman also explicitly notes that an affirmation of such a broad Commerce Clause interpretation could become a "federal police power" to the disadvantage of the states—though he seems surprisingly unconcerned about it.

In a pro-ObamaCare decision in July, Judge Sutton abstracted the law's mandate in a way that allowed him to find it constitutional, rather than address the mandate's provisions as they are written into the law. But Judge Sutton did address the stakes in the case with unmistakable clarity: The High Court, he wrote, "either should stop saying that a meaningful limit on Congress's commerce powers exists or prove that it is so."

The Obama Administration's answer to the law's multiple discrepancies, contradictions and nuances has been to go all-in on the argument that overturning the mandate will overturn the entire law. It's true that without the mandate the law is unlikely to work, but the law is such a Rube Goldberg contraption that it won't work with the mandate.

We'd like to see the entire law overturned, but the mandate deserves its own constitutional judgment. It shouldn't be found constitutional merely because Justice's lawyers say its excision would ruin the entire law. Congress can't drop unconstitutional provisions into laws hoping that the Court will bless them simply because not doing so would invalidate the larger law.

Perhaps the most intriguing nugget in the Supreme Court's announcement is that it will take arguments on the law's Medicaid provisions. Intriguing because the Court was under no obligation to touch the law's Medicaid piece, which none of the lower courts invalidated. ObamaCare vastly expands Medicaid to the middle class and hammers hard any state that refuses to comply. It appears some of the Justices want to hear someone justify this federal aggrandizement as well.

The Court itself deserves credit for deciding to take this case this year, even though it probably means issuing a decision in an election year.

The law is already speeding the ruin of U.S. health care, increasing costs and reducing competition. It is easily the most unpopular major reform in decades and the most unpopular entitlement expansion ever. More broadly, it is impossible to duck the matter of whether this law's powers would stop at health care, as its backers insist, or whether it will be merely the first wave of other such mandated enforcements, if the federal government is given the power to compel individuals to participate in commerce, rather than merely regulate it.

These are issues involving the nation's core understanding of the citizenry's relationship to its government. Voters should have the chance to include the Court's verdict on the law when they go to the polls in 2012.
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Saturday, November 05, 2011

Who lost Iraq?

This may not be an impeachable offense: But it should be. The worst president, in terms of competance, ever to serve (and yes, that includes Jimmy Carter)...T

Barack Obama was a principled opponent of the Iraq war from its beginning. But when he became president in January 2009, he was handed a war that was won. The surge had succeeded. Al-Qaeda in Iraq had been routed, driven to humiliating defeat by an Anbar Awakening of Sunnis fighting side-by-side with the infidel Americans. Even more remarkably, the Shiite militias had been taken down, with U.S. backing, by the forces of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. They crushed the Sadr militias from Basra to Sadr City.

Al-Qaeda decimated. A Shiite prime minister taking a decisively nationalist line. Iraqi Sunnis ready to integrate into a new national government. U.S. casualties at their lowest ebb in the entire war. Elections approaching. Obama was left with but a single task: Negotiate a new status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) to reinforce these gains and create a strategic partnership with the Arab world’s only democracy.

He blew it. Negotiations, such as they were, finally collapsed last month. There is no agreement, no partnership. As of Dec. 31, the U.S. military presence in Iraq will be liquidated.

And it’s not as if that deadline snuck up on Obama. He had three years to prepare for it. Everyone involved, Iraqi and American, knew that the 2008 SOFA calling for full U.S. withdrawal was meant to be renegotiated. And all major parties but one (the Sadr faction) had an interest in some residual stabilizing U.S. force, like the postwar deployments in Japan, Germany and Korea.

Three years, two abject failures. The first was the administration’s inability, at the height of American post-surge power, to broker a centrist nationalist coalition governed by the major blocs — one predominantly Shiite (Maliki’s), one predominantly Sunni (Ayad Allawi’s), one Kurdish — that among them won a large majority (69 percent) of seats in the 2010 election.

Vice President Biden was given the job. He failed utterly. The government ended up effectively being run by a narrow sectarian coalition where the balance of power is held by the relatively small (12 percent) Iranian-client Sadr faction.

The second failure was the SOFA itself. U.S. commanders recommended nearly 20,000 troops, considerably fewer than our 28,500 in Korea, 40,000 in Japan and 54,000 in Germany. The president rejected those proposals, choosing instead a level of 3,000 to 5,000 troops.

A deployment so risibly small would have to expend all its energies simply protecting itself — the fate of our tragic, missionless 1982 Lebanon deployment — with no real capability to train the Iraqis, build their U.S.-equipped air force, mediate ethnic disputes (as we have successfully done, for example, between local Arabs and Kurds), operate surveillance and special-ops bases, and establish the kind of close military-to-military relations that undergird our strongest alliances.

The Obama proposal was an unmistakable signal of unseriousness. It became clear that he simply wanted out, leaving any Iraqi foolish enough to maintain a pro-American orientation exposed to Iranian influence, now unopposed and potentially lethal. Message received. Just this past week, Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurds — for two decades the staunchest of U.S. allies — visited Tehran to bend a knee to both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It didn’t have to be this way. Our friends did not have to be left out in the cold to seek Iranian protection. Three years and a won war had given Obama the opportunity to establish a lasting strategic alliance with the Arab world’s second most important power.

He failed, though he hardly tried very hard. The excuse is Iraqi refusal to grant legal immunity to U.S. forces. But the Bush administration encountered the same problem and overcame it. Obama had little desire to. Indeed, he portrays the evacuation as a success, the fulfillment of a campaign promise.

But surely the obligation to defend the security and the interests of the nation supersede personal vindication. Obama opposed the war, but when he became commander in chief the terrible price had already been paid in blood and treasure. His obligation was to make something of that sacrifice, to secure the strategic gains that sacrifice had already achieved.

He did not, failing at precisely what this administration so flatters itself for doing so well: diplomacy. After years of allegedly clumsy brutish force, Obama was to usher in an era of not hard power, not soft power, but smart power.

Which turns out in Iraq to be . . . no power. Years from now, we will be asking not “Who lost Iraq?” — that already is clear — but “Why?”
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