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8:30 AM EST Monday, February 12, 2007: We must pull out of Iraq. Whatever your politics -- Republican or Democrat, right-wing or left-wing -- it is obvious that there is no longer a military solution. There is only a political solution. The Iraqis themselves must solve the differences between their warring factions. We, as outsiders, cannot solve this with our troops. That political solution remains in Iraqi -- not American -- hands.

My weekend focussed, fortuitously, on Iraq. It started on Friday night. We'd gone to dinner and afterwards we were in Barnes & Noble browsing books. I started to read this one, bought it, took it home and devoured in one sitting, finishing at 2:30 AM. I haven't done that with a book in eons. It's beautifully written and gripping.

I urge everyone to read this incredible book. It's written by an American who served in Iraq as a Private First Class in the U.S. Army. The book tells the story of what he did to the Iraqi people and what he saw other Americans do to them, why he deserted the war and became an outlaw in his own country. Quoting from pages 222 to 224:

"In my opinion, the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States were cowardly despicable crimes. On that day, the terrorists had no right to take the lives of American civilians. But I fear that our own behavior in Iraq has invited more of the same. The young Iraqis who survive our raids, abuse and detentions have all the motivations they need to seek revenge. I am not looking forward to the day they get organized. Whenever I remember standing with three hundred military trainees in Missouri shouting, "Kill the sand niggers" as loud we could while stabbing and slashing with our bayonets at straw dummies, I say to myself that I hope the Iraqis who survive our war prove to be more civilized than we were. …

"Going off to war in Iraq and then going AWOL - first in my own country and then fleeing to Canada - forced me to give up many things. I had to give up my innocent and unexamined belief that my country and my army were a force for good in the world. I had to give up my assumptions that leaders of my own country would speak the truth when they spoke to me. …

"And it was not true that every man, woman and child in Iraq was an evil terrorist who deserved American hatred, bombs and occupation. All I had to do was look in the eyes of the seven-year old girl who ran to me to ask for my rations, day after day until she was shot dead (by American troops), to know that the people we intimidate, beat, detained, and killed were human beings with the same hungry stomachs as my American-born children."

Before we went to War in Iraq, the Administration launched a major PR campaign. It succeeded. At one stage more than 50% of Americans actually believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2003. Just recently, the Pentagon -- not some left-wing think tank -- but the Pentagon itself has confirmed that we, as Americans, were lied to. The Saturday lead editorial in The New York Times explains all. Read it --- even if you believe that the Times is populated by untrustworthy, left-wing, pinko reporters:

The Build-a-War Workshop

It took far too long, but a report by the Pentagon inspector general has finally confirmed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s do-it-yourself intelligence office cooked up a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda to help justify an unjustifiable war.

The report said the team headed by Douglas Feith, under secretary of defense for policy, developed “alternative” assessments of intelligence on Iraq that contradicted the intelligence community and drew conclusions “that were not supported by the available intelligence.” Mr. Feith certainly knew the Central Intelligence Agency would cry foul, so he hid his findings from the C.I.A. Then Vice President Dick Cheney used them as proof of cloak-and-dagger meetings that never happened, long-term conspiracies between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden that didn’t exist, and — most unforgivable — “possible Iraqi coordination” on the 9/11 attacks, which no serious intelligence analyst believed.

The inspector general did not recommend criminal charges against Mr. Feith because Mr. Rumsfeld or his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, approved their subordinate’s “inappropriate” operations. The renegade intelligence buff said he was relieved.

We’re sure he was. But there is no comfort in knowing that his dirty work was approved by his bosses. All that does is add to evidence that the Bush administration knowingly and repeatedly misled Americans about the intelligence on Iraq.

To understand this twisted tale, it is important to recall how Mr. Feith got into the creative writing business. Top administration officials, especially Mr. Cheney, had long been furious at the C.I.A. for refusing to confirm the delusion about a grand Iraqi terrorist conspiracy, something the Republican right had nursed for years. Their frustration only grew after 9/11 and the C.I.A. still refused to buy these theories.

Mr. Wolfowitz would feverishly sketch out charts showing how this Iraqi knew that Iraqi, who was connected through six more degrees of separation to terrorist attacks, all the way back to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

But the C.I.A. kept saying there was no reliable intelligence about an Iraq-Qaeda link. So Mr. Feith was sent to review the reports and come back with the answers Mr. Cheney wanted. The inspector general’s report said Mr. Feith’ s team gave a September 2002 briefing at the White House on the alleged Iraq-Qaeda connection that had not been vetted by the intelligence community (the director of central intelligence was pointedly not told it was happening) and “was not fully supported by the available intelligence.”

The false information included a meeting in Prague in April 2001 between an Iraqi official and Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 pilots. It never happened. But Mr. Feith’s report said it did, and Mr. Cheney will still not admit that the story is false.

In a statement released yesterday, Senator Carl Levin, the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has been dogged in pursuit of the truth about the Iraqi intelligence, noted that the cooked-up Feith briefing had been leaked to the conservative Weekly Standard magazine so Mr. Cheney could quote it as the “best source” of information about the supposed Iraq-Qaeda link.

The Pentagon report is one step in a long-delayed effort to figure out how the intelligence on Iraq was so badly twisted — and by whom. That work should have been finished before the 2004 elections, and it would have been if Pat Roberts, the obedient Republican who ran the Senate Intelligence Committee, had not helped the White House drag it out and load it in ways that would obscure the truth.

It is now up to Mr. Levin and Senator Jay Rockefeller, the current head of the intelligence panel, to give Americans the answers. Mr. Levin’s desire to have the entire inspector general’s report on the Feith scheme declassified is a good place to start. But it will be up to Mr. Rockefeller to finally determine how old, inconclusive, unsubstantiated and false intelligence was transformed into fresh, reliable and definitive reports — and then used by Mr. Bush and other top officials to drag the country into a disastrous and unnecessary war.

On Sunday night I attended a private fund raising for Senator Levin. He spoke for nearly two hours on the war. The politics of shutting it down are immensely complex by the rules of Congress. In the house of Representatives, a standard majority prevails. The Senate requires a 60% majority. So far, there are not sufficient anti-war Senators to reach that 60%. What Senator Levin is hoping for is to pass a simple, two-part resolution this week that will:

1. Say we disagree with the Surge, on the basis that there is no military solution, only a political solution, and
2. Say the Senate supports our troops. The objective of this is not to let the White House "play the patriotism card."

All reasons for sending more troops (i.e. The Surge) are based on predictions of disastrous scenarios if we fail. Previous wars -- Korea and Vietnam -- were also based on predictions of disastrous scenarios. None came true. It won't happen in Iraq, either. However, the certainty of losing more precious American lives (and spending several hundred more billions) does not measure up against the extreme uncertainty of any bad scenario. Moreover, by being there, we are making Iraqis seriously hate Americans. Read Joshua Key's sobering book. It explains what our troops do every day. It's not pretty.

That's it. I have stuck my head out, and probably lost half my readership. I'll get back to investing tomorrow.

Favorite sign:

What happens when you work late at night:
A mortician was working late one night. He examined the body of Mr. Schwartz, about to be cremated, and made a startling discovery. Schwartz had the largest private part he had ever seen!

"I'm sorry Mr. Schwartz," the mortician commented, "I can't allow you to be cremated with such an impressive private part. It must be saved for posterity."!

So, he removed it, stuffed it into his briefcase, and took it home "I have something to show you won't believe," he said to his wife, opening his briefcase.

"My God!" the wife exclaimed, "Schwartz is dead!"

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads. Thus I cannot endorse any, though some look mighty interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Claire's law school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.
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