Obama announces end to Iraq War

U.S. soldiers take a rest in the shade of armoured vehicles at a courtyard at Camp Liberty in Baghdad September 30, 2011. U.S troops are scheduled to pull out of the country by the end of this year, according to a 2008 security pact between the U.S. and Iraq. Picture taken September 30, 2011. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen (IRAQ – Tags: CONFLICT POLITICS MILITARY)

President Obama just announced in a news conference that all American troops in Iraq will be withdrawn by the end of the year, and the troops will be home for the holidays.

This was expected, but it’s still monumental. After spending trillions of dollars and suffering thousands of American casualties, we’re finally leaving Iraq.

The U.S. was open to keeping trainers in Iraq past the end of the year, but the Iraqi government would not grant immunity to American soldiers, so we told them to forget it.

Reports that Muammar Gaddafi was killed in Sirte

Residents celebrate at Martyrs square in Tripoli October 20, 2011 after hearing the news that former leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in Sirte. Gaddafi died in an attack by NTC fighters, a senior NTC official said on Thursday. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny (LIBYA – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

Libyans are celebrating with the reports that Muammar Gaddafi was killed in Sirte. It’s not completely confirmed but more reports are trickling in.

This is further validation of the policies President Obama pursued in Libya in the face of withering criticism from the left and the right. It’s an example of how air power can work, and how we can avoid problems when we don’t send our troops.

Osama bin Laden killed by U.S. forces

Citizens of New York City gather at Ground Zero to celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden. DP/AAD/starmxinc.com

Finally.

We can all celebrate the killing of Osama bin Laden in our own way. Many took to the streets near the White House, Ground Zero and other landmarks. College students at Ohio State jumped into Mirror Lake, an act usually reserved for Michigan weekend. Many were jubilant. Others were somber as well as this brought back the horror and pain of 9/11.

It shouldn’t have taken 10 years, but at least this murderer is finally dead.

Republicans block benefits for 9/11 first responders

After demagoguing 9/11 for the past decade and constantly talking about the heroes of that terrible time, the Republicans blocked benefits for 9/11 first responders. Many of the have become seriously ill and some have died due to what they had to breath while responding to the terrorist attack. Jon Stewart lets them have it.

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Obama will close Gitmo

President Obama continues the clean break from the policies of the Bush administration. Today he signed new executive orders regarding the closure of the Guantanamo detention facility within a year, the review of military trials of terror suspects and a ban of the harshest interrogation techniques. Obama made his intentions clear:

The message we are sending around the world is that the US intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism and we are going to do so vigilantly, we are going to do so effectively, and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals … We intend to win this fight, and we intend to win it on our terms.

I find it interesting that he did not use the phrase “war on terror.” I have no idea if that was intentional, but as I’ve said in the past that phrase was always overly broad and misleading. Hopefully we can move beyond simple slogans to a more sophisticated policy that effectively fights those who wish to do us harm and rebuilds our bonds with moderate and peace-seeking peoples around the world.

Spying on Americans by the NSA

I’m watching Countdown and Keith Olbermann is interviewing former NSA analyst Russell Tice. Tice has been explaining how the NSA has been snooping on ordinary Americans, including phone calls, faxes, emails etc. He specifically stated that the NSA was tracking major American news organizations and their reporters.

This is outrageous and scary as hell. It will be interesting to see what the Obama administration does with this.

Feds say fires brought down World Trade Center 7

9/11 conspiracy buffs have long pointed to the collapse of 47-story building 7 of the World Trade Center as evidence that there was a conspiracy behind the attacks. Many have speculated that only a controlled explosion could have led to the collapse of the building.

The government has just released a study in an attempt to refute these theories.

Federal investigators issued a report Thursday concluding that fires brought down a skyscraper next to New York’s twin towers on Sept. 11, refuting conspiracy theorists who have long believed that explosives somehow caused the collapse.

Scientists with the National Institute of Standards and Technology say their three-year investigation of the collapse of the 47-story World Trade Center 7 was the first known instance of fire causing the total failure of a skyscraper.

The investigators also concluded that the collapse of the nearby towers broke the city water main, leaving the sprinkler system in the bottom half of the building without water.

The structure has been the subject of a wide range of conspiracy theories for the last seven years, partly because the collapse happened about seven hours after the twin towers were felled. That fueled theories that something else might have caused the collapse.

This explanation seems very plausible to me.

Rudy Giuliani will give keynote address at GOP convention

Rudy Giuliani is the genius who compared George W. Bush to Winston Churchill at the 2004.

If there’s one reason I’d like to see Joe Biden as Obama’s VP choice, it’s to watch him ridicule guys like Giuliani and of course John McCain for some of the ridiculous things these guys say about national security. After his performance in 2004, and in the primaries this year, Giuliani ought to be too embarassed to speak in public. Of course, none of the networks will call him on these comments. All of the news anchors are still in awe of Giuliani.

Obama’s approach to foreign policy

Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria takes a close look at Barack Obama’s approach to foreign policy, noting Obama’s emphasis on realism, in sharp contrast to John McCain and George W. Bush, who have embraced the wide-eyed idealism of the neoconservatives.

The rap on Barack Obama, at least in the realm of foreign policy, has been that he is a softheaded idealist who thinks that he can charm America’s enemies. John McCain and his campaign, conservative columnists and right-wing bloggers all paint a picture of a liberal dreamer who wishes away the world’s dangers. Even President Bush stepped into the fray earlier this year to condemn the Illinois senator’s willingness to meet with tyrants as naive. Some commentators have acted as if Obama, touring the Middle East and Europe this week on his first trip abroad since effectively wrapping up the nomination, is in for a rude awakening.

These critiques, however, are off the mark. Over the course of the campaign against Hillary Clinton and now McCain, Obama has elaborated more and more the ideas that would undergird his foreign policy as president. What emerges is a world view that is far from that of a typical liberal, much closer to that of a traditional realist. It is interesting to note that, at least in terms of the historical schools of foreign policy, Obama seems to be the cool conservative and McCain the exuberant idealist.

Just as with his other policies, Obama takes a much more nuanced approach to the world, recognizing that the world is a complex place. In contrast, McCain seems to embrace W’s simplistic “good vs. evil” approach to most situation.

Obama rarely speaks in the moralistic tones of the current Bush administration. He doesn’t divide the world into good and evil even when speaking about terrorism. He sees countries and even extremist groups as complex, motivated by power, greed and fear as much as by pure ideology. His interest in diplomacy seems motivated by the sense that one can probe, learn and possibly divide and influence countries and movements precisely because they are not monoliths. When speaking to me about Islamic extremism, for example, he repeatedly emphasized the diversity within the Islamic world, speaking of Arabs, Persians, Africans, Southeast Asians, Shiites and Sunnis, all of whom have their own interests and agendas.

Obama never uses the soaring language of Bush’s freedom agenda, preferring instead to talk about enhancing people’s economic prospects, civil society and—his key word—”dignity.” He rejects Bush’s obsession with elections and political rights, and argues that people’s aspirations are broader and more basic—including food, shelter, jobs. “Once these aspirations are met,” he told The New York Times’s James Traub, “it opens up space for the kind of democratic regimes we want.” This is a view of democratic development that is slow, organic and incremental, usually held by conservatives.

Rudy Giuliani continues to embarass himself

After running one of the most pathetic presidential campaigns in modern history (he paid $50 for one delegate), Rudy Giuliani is being trotted out as John McCain’s latest attack dog on national security. Here’s an example of why Rudy is so bad. Like McCain, he can’t keep his story straight.

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