Thursday, December 02, 2004

Guide to What's IN and OUT

Daily Reality Check

Guide to What's IN and OUT

It's time for another edition of The Daily Reality Check's Guide to What's IN and OUT.

IN (to the breach): Exactly one month to the day after the presidential election, the Pentagon announced plans to increase US troops strength in Iraq to about 150,000 – the highest level since occupation begin over one and a half years ago.

So how exactly do the folks at DoD plan to add all that manpower? Well, mostly by extending the tours of duty of those soldiers already over there, meaning that some will have served tours of 14 months in combat.

(Note the use of the word "combat." They didn't spend 14 months over there "being greeted as liberators.")

The additional forces will be called upon to quell insurgencies as elections near at the end of next month. While this is certainly a necessary function, the fact that more American troops are being called upon instead of trained Iraqi forces is disturbing. "I fear that it signals a re-Americanization…of our strategy in Iraq," said retired Army Col. Ralph Hallenbeck.

Just for the sake on contrast, consider this: The original Pentagon war plan expected that no more than 50,000 US troops would be needed in Iraq by the end of 2003.

"Plan A – what the US actually did – failed, and Plan B – the adaptations since the end of 'major combat' – hasn't worked either, so far,” said retired Army Col. Raoul Alcala. Read more here.

OUT (of facts): It's well-known that the Bush administration has pushed for abstinence education – and abstinence education only – in public schools. But has that agenda compromised scientific facts? A new report by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) says yes.

According to Waxman's study, which reviewed the curricula of over a dozen such projects, American youths were being taught a variety of "false, misleading, or distorted information.” Among the most ridiculous "facts”:

* A 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person”
* HIV can be spread through sweat and tears
* Condoms fail to protect against HIV as much as 31 percent of the time
* Women who have abortion are more prone to sterility and suicide
* Touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy”
* Half of gay male teenagers in the US have tested positive for AIDS

The curricula containing these inaccuracies are used by 69 different organizations spread throughout 25 states. The Bush administration has provided nearly $170 million in funding for these abstinence only groups.

Read more here.

IN (question): A federal judge has called the Bush administration's approach to the War on Terrorism into question. US District Judge Joyce Hens Green is presiding over a hearing concerning imprisoned enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the US government's power to keep them there.

The Pentagon contends that it is within its powers to hold the 550 combatants there indefinitely (some have been there for nearly three years), but Green questioned the broad definition presented for "enemy combatant.”

"What's the purpose of detaining someone who never came within 1,000 miles of a battlefield? What, quote, 'battlefield' is the United States trying to prevent the detainees from returning to? Back to Africa? Back to London? Back to some acreage of land somewhere?” Judge Green queried.

Read more here.

OUT (of funds): So much for science. Congress has decided to cut funding for the National Science Foundation – only two years after endorsing a plan to double its funds by 2007. The budget for the foundation was slashed by $105 million, while dozens of pet local projects were crammed into the spending bill.

"I am astonished that we would make this decision at a time when other nations continue to surpass our students in math and science and consistently increase their funding of basic research,” said Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI).

Rep. David Obey (D-WI) called it "the most Luddite provision” of the whole bill.

Of course, the silver lining to all this is that scientists disgruntled by the lack of federal funding will now find it much, much easier to vent their wrath in the form of black-market gun crimes – Congress has eliminated direct financing for Project Safe Neighborhoods, which prosecutes gun-related crimes.

"It's a matter of priorities,” said John Scofield, spokesman for the house Appropriations Committee.


In fact, the project was a favorite of none other than President Bush, who cannot be pleased to see the Republican-controlled Congress once again put him in a politically dicey situation.

"The administration has been touting this program as one of their great successes. So the fact that they're letting this program just disappear speaks to the fact that either they are unwilling to combat gun crime or their promises on gun crime have been just empty rhetoric,” said John Lacey, an official with Americans for Gun Safety.