Tag Archives: Iraq

West Wing Week ~ The Year 5771 ~ September 4 – September 10, 2010

Posted by: Audiegrl

Bo, the Obama family dog, waits for President Barack Obama to throw the ball during a game of fetch in the Rose Garden of the White House, Sept. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. This week, walk step-by-step with the President as he celebrates Labor Day in Milwaukee, welcomes the Secretary-General of NATO, outlines plans to grow the economy in Cleveland and much more.

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West Wing Week ~ Dispatches from Iraq ~ August 27 – September 3, 2010

Posted by: Audiegrl

A soldier looks out over Baghdad, Iraq, from Vice President Joe Biden's helicopter as it flies from Camp Victory, Aug. 30, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

This week the President announced the end of America’s combat mission in Iraq and West Wing Week takes you there, on the ground, with an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the change of mission. We spent a week on the ground with our troops and civilians , some coming home, some staying for the next mission, training and supporting the Iraqis now that they have the lead in protecting their own country.

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Welcoming our Troops Coming Home from Iraq

Posted by: Audiegrl

U.S. Army soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division race toward the border from Iraq into Kuwait Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010. The soldiers are part of the last combat brigade to leave Iraq as part of the drawdown of U.S. forces. (AP Photo/ Maya Alleruzzo)

Good afternoon,

Shortly after taking office, I put forward a plan to end the war in Iraq responsibly. Today, I’m pleased to report that — thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians in Iraq — our combat mission will end this month, and we will complete a substantial drawdown of our troops.

Over the last 18 months, over 90,000 U.S. troops have left Iraq. By the end of this month, 50,000 troops will be serving in Iraq. As Iraqi Security Forces take responsibility for securing their country, our troops will move to an advise-and-assist  role. And, consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all of our troops will be out of Iraq by the end of next year. Meanwhile, we will continue to build a strong partnership with the Iraqi people with an increased civilian commitment and diplomatic effort.

A few weeks ago, men and women from one of the most deployed brigades in the U.S. Army, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, returned home from Iraq. The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden were at Fort Drum to welcome the veterans home and spoke about their personal experiences as a military family:

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Our commitment to our troops doesn’t end once they come home — it’s only the beginning.  Part of ending a war responsibly is meeting our responsibility to the men and women who have fought it. Our troops and their families have made tremendous sacrifices to keep our nation safe and secure, and as a nation we have a moral obligation to serve our veterans as well as they have served us.

That’s why we’re building a 21st century Department of Veterans Affairs.  We’ve made one of the largest percentage increase in the VA’s budget in 30 years, and we’re dramatically increasing funding for veterans’ health across the board. In particular, we’re delivering unprecedented resources to treat signature wounds of today’s wars—Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Our sacred trust to take care of our veterans goes beyond simply healing the wounds incurred in battle. We must ensure that when our veterans leave the Armed Forces, they have the opportunities they need to further their education and support their families.  Through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, some 300,000 veterans and families members have pursued a college degree.  Others are taking advantage of job training and placement programs.

My Administration will continue to do our part to support the brave men and women in uniform that have sacrificed so much.  But supporting our troops and their families is not just the job of the Federal Government; it’s the responsibility of all Americans.

As we mark this milestone in the Iraq war and our troops continue to move out of Iraq, I hope you’ll join me in thanking them, and all of our troops and military families, for their service.

Sincerely,
President Barack Obama

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Filed under Dr. Jill Biden, Iraq, Military, Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized, Vice-President Joe Biden

Celebrating Independence Day at the White House and in Iraq

Posted by: Audiegrl

Today, President Obama and First Lady Michelle hosted more than 1,200 military heroes and their families for an Independence Day celebration on the South Lawn of the White House. The “Salute to the Military” USO Concert included performances by The Killers, Cedric “The Entertainer,” and Brandi Carlile, and “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band. The evening wraped up with a viewing of the fireworks on the National Mall.

In case you missed it, watch First Lady Michelle Obama’s video message about supporting our military families on Independence Day.

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Celebrating the Fourth of July with Our Troops in Iraq
Written by Dr. Jill Biden

Vice President Joe Biden, center, congratulates a soldier on becoming a U.S. citizen during a naturalization ceremony in Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory, Iraq. Biden's wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, left, commander of U.S. Forces Iraq, also attended the event during which more than 150 U.S. servicemembers became U.S. citizens. July 4, 2010. (by Elaine Wilson)

Last night, my husband Joe and I flew to Iraq to celebrate the Fourth of July with our troops. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Independence Day than spending it with Americans who are bravely serving our country.

This morning we participated in a naturalization ceremony for about 150 of our soldiers serving here in Iraq. I was honored to be part of this special day with so many brave men and women who have been volunteering to fight for our country even before they took the oath of citizenship.

U.S. troops take the citizenship oath during a naturalization ceremony in Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory, Iraq. More than 150 servicemembers became citizens in a ceremony attended by Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden. July 4, 2010. (by Elaine Wilson)

Afterwards, I had lunch with several women soldiers who told me about their experiences serving in Iraq. Many of them are mothers, and one of them is married to a soldier who is also deployed. They are managing all the challenges of parenting – securing health care, child care and education – while one or both parents are away.

It’s not easy to be away from loved ones – especially over the holidays. So please, take a minute today and give thanks to our military families serving this Nation around the world.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July, and may God protect our troops.

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, shares lunch with female soldiers at the Oasis Dining Facility on Camp Victory, Iraq. Biden spoke with the soldiers about their family-related issues and concerns. July 4, 2010. (by Elaine Wilson)

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Fireworks begin as The Killers play on the South Lawn of the White House during the Fourth of July celebration. July 4, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the roof of the White House. July 4, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Academy Award® Nominated: The Messenger

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In his most powerful performance to date, Ben Foster stars as Will Montgomery, a U.S. Army officer who has just returned home from a tour in Iraq and is assigned to the Army’s Casualty Notification service. Partnered with fellow officer Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) to bear the bad news to the loved ones of fallen soldiers, Will faces the challenge of completing his mission while seeking to find comfort and healing back on the home front. When he finds himself drawn to Olivia (Samantha Morton), to whom he has just delivered the news of her husband’s death, Will’s emotional detachment begins to dissolve and the film reveals itself as a surprising, humorous, moving and very human portrait of grief, friendship and survival.

Featuring tour-de-force performances from Foster, Harrelson and Morton, and a brilliant directorial debut by Oren Moverman, The Messenger brings us into the inner lives of these outwardly steely heroes to reveal their fragility with compassion and dignity.

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The cast includes: Ben Foster, Jena Malone, Eamonn Walker, Woody Harrelson, Yaya DaCosta, Portia, Lisa Joyce, Steve Buscemi, Peter Francis James, Samantha Morton, and Paul Diomede

Reviews

IMDB member
“The Messenger has incredible acting by Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, and Samantha Morton.

The film has a curious flow to it. It begins predictable, yet remains engaging, exposing a heart-breaking consequence of war no family wants to face. Although the news remains the same, emotions run just as deep at each door. Every scene is handled marvelously through subtle performances by the actors. As the film unfolds, the viewer sinks into the complex characters on screen, discomforted by the internal struggles that slowly surface.

The Messenger is a non-linear, character-driven film with exceptional performances but might not be for everyone.”

Did You Know?

Sgt. Brian Scott, who was training to deploy to Iraq at Ft. Dix in New Jersey and was a technical adviser in this film, was subsequently injured in an IED attack in Baghdad.

Two Nominations

Best Supporting Actor~Woody Harrelson
Best Original Screenplay

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Nominated for Best Actor ~ Jeremy Renner ~The Hurt Locker

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Jeremy RennerJeremy Renner recently starred in 28 Weeks Later, the highly anticipated sequel to 28 Days Later, for director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and co-starring Rose Byrne and Robert Carlyle. He played the heroic soldier Doyle, who goes against military orders to save a group of survivors. Renner also starred in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, directed by Andrew Dominik. In the film, Renner stars alongside Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck in the role of a key member of James’ gang, Wood Hide. He also costarred opposite Minnie Driver in the independent film Take, scheduled for release later this year.

In North Country, Renner starred opposite Academy Award winner Charlize Theron in a fictionalized account of the first major, successful sexual harassment case in the U.S. Renner is at the center of the unfolding drama as miner Bobby Sharp. Renner also starred in the acclaimed independent film 12 and Holding, which was nominated for the Independent Spirit Awards’ John Cassavetes Award.

Other recent credits include the independent film Neo Ned, in which Renner starred opposite Gabrielle Union. Neo Ned was screened at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival and swept the feature film category at the 11th Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival in 2006. Neo Ned was awarded Best Feature Film and Best Director while Renner won the Best Actor prize. The film also was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking/Best Feature Film Award at the Newport Beach Film Festival in April 2006, in addition to the audience awards at the Slamdance, Sarasota and Ashland film festivals.

Jeremy Renner as Staff Sergeant William James in The Hurt Locker

Jeremy Renner as Staff Sergeant William James in The Hurt Locker

Renner’s other credits include A Little Trip to Heaven, in which he starred opposite Julia Stiles; The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, directed by Asia Argento as adapted from the critically acclaimed novel by J.T. Leroy; Lords of Dogtown, for director Catherine Hardwicke; and the independent film Love of the Executioner, written and directed by Kyle Bergersen.
In 2003, Renner was seen in the action hit S.W.A.T. opposite Colin Farrell and Samuel L. Jackson. But the role that put Renner on the map and earned the actor an Independent Spirit Award nomination was his unforgettable portrayal of a real-life serial killer in the indie film Dahmer.
With a background in theater, Renner keeps his acting chops in shape by performing in plays throughout the Los Angeles area. Recent credits have included the critically acclaimed “Search and Destroy,” which he not only starred in but also co-directed.

Between film and theater, Renner finds the time to write, record, and perform his own brand of contemporary rock. He has written songs for Warner Chapel Publishing and Universal Publishing.

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Academy Award® Nominated: The Hurt Locker

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The Hurt LockerThe Hurt Locker, winner of the 2008 Venice Film Festival SIGNIS Grand Prize, is a riveting, suspenseful portrait of the courage under fire of the military’s unrecognized heroes: the technicians of a bomb squad who volunteer to challenge the odds and save lives in one of the world’s most dangerous places. Three members of the Army’s elite Explosive Ordnance Disposal
(EOD) squad battle insurgents and each other as they search for and disarm a wave of roadside bombs on the streets of Baghdad—in order to try and make the city a safer place for Iraqis and Americans alike. Their mission is clear—protect and save—but it’s anything but easy, as the margin of error when defusing a war-zone bomb is zero. This thrilling and heart-pounding look at the effects of combat and danger on the human psyche is based on the first-hand observations of journalist and screenwriter Mark Boal, who was embedded with a special bomb unit in Iraq.

These men spoke of explosions as putting you in “the hurt locker.”

With a visual and emotional intensity that makes audiences feel like they have been transported to Iraq’s dizzying, 24-hour turmoil, The Hurt Locker is both a gripping portrayal of real-life sacrifice and heroism, and a layered, probing study of the soul-numbing rigors and potent allure of the modern battlefield.

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Credits

Director . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kathryn Bigelow
Producers . . . . . . . . Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Nicolas Chartier, Greg Shapiro
Executive Producer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tony Mark
Screenwriter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mark Boal
Director of Photography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Barry Ackroyd
Production Designer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Karl Júlíusson
Editors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
Costume Designer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . George Little
Composer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marc Beltrami

The cast includes: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, David Morse, Christian Camargo, and Evangeline Lilly

Reviews

IMDB member from Argentina
“I spent the entire film grabbing the arms of my seat. I was there in Irak, steps away from my death and the death of those around me. The tension, the suspense is at times breathtaking, literally. “The Hurt Locker” is a miracle and the definitive consecration of a great filmmaker, Kathryn Bigelow. This is also a rare occasion in which I went to see the film without having read a single review or knowing anything about it. One should try to do that more often because the impact of the surprise translates into pure pleasure and in this case, sometimes, you have to look away from the unmitigated horror. Jeremy Renner is a real find. He is superb. A kind soul, wild man with enough arrogance to make him appear reckless and yet his humanity precedes him. People may commit the mistake of avoiding this gem thinking that it’s just a war film. Don’t. It isn’t. It’s a great, engrossing film about human emotions, not to be missed. “

Did You Know?

During filming, three, four or more hand-held super 16mm cameras were used to film scenes in documentary style. Nearly two hundred hours of footage was shot at an eye-popping 100:1 shooting ratio (a higher ratio of expended film than the notorious Francis Ford Coppola epic, Apocalypse Now (1979)).

James Cameron said this about ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow’s film: “I think this could be the ‘Platoon’ (1986) for the Iraq War.”

Jeremy Renner wore a real bomb suit in the sweltering desert heat without a stunt double.

The crew members were American, Jordanian, Lebanese, English, Irish, German, Moroccan, Danish, Tunisian, South African, Icelandic, Iraqi, Libyan, Circassian, Palestinian, Armenian, Swedish, Australian, and New Zealish.

Nine Nominations

Best Motion Picture
Best Director
Best Actor ~ Jeremy Renner
Best Original Screenplay
Best in Film Editing
Best Cinematography
Best in Music (Original Score)
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing

March 2, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Academy Penalizes Aggressive Campaigner

Beverly Hills, CA — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today that, should “The Hurt Locker” be announced as the recipient of the Best Picture award at Sunday’s ceremonies, only three of the picture’s producers will be present for the celebration. The fourth of the film’s credited producers, Nicolas Chartier, has been denied attendance at the 82nd Academy Awards® as a penalty for violating Academy campaigning standards.

Chartier had recently disseminated an email to certain Academy voters and other film industry figures in which he solicited votes for his own picture and disparaged one of the other contending films. Academy rules prohibit “casting a negative or derogatory light on a competing film.” The executive committee of the Academy’s Producers Branch, at a special session late Monday, ruled that the ethical lapse merited the revocation of Chartier’s invitation to the Awards.

The group stopped short of recommending that the Academy governors rescind Chartier’s nomination. If “The Hurt Locker” were to be selected as Best Picture, Chartier would receive his Oscar® statuette at some point subsequent to the March 7 ceremonies.”

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Shoshana Johnson Pens Her Story In “I’m Still Standing”

Posted by guest contributor: Shanti

Shoshana Johnson poses for a picture in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010

Shoshana Johnson poses for a picture in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010 (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“In March of 2003, when Operation Iraqi Freedom was only days old, world headlines were made when a U.S. army convoy was attacked in the city of An-Nasiriyah en route to Baghdad. Several soldiers were killed and others were taken prisoner.

Jessica Lynch became the face and name associated with this tragedy, but another female soldier, Shoshana Johnson, was also wounded and captured in the ambush. A video of Shoshana being interrogated by her captors was soon broadcast on Spanish-language television and then picked up by American media. Shoshana had become the first black female prisoner of war in United States history. She was held for twenty-two days.

When Shoshana returned to the United States, she received numerous awards for her valor, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Prisoner of War medals. She appeared on news networks and national television shows such as Oprah, Ellen, The Tonight Show, and Larry King Live, but she was bound by a military gag order. She was unable to discuss what really happened in Iraq — until now.

Shoshana holds nothing back in this harrowing account of an ordinary woman caught in an extraordinary circumstance. She reveals decisions made by higher-ups that may have led to the capture, describes the pain of post-traumatic stress disorder, and shares the surprising story of how a specialist in a maintenance company ended up on the front lines of war.

Divulging personal emotions and frustrations while raising fresh political issues, I’m Still Standing is the never-before-told and much anticipated story of the headline-making ambush, capture, and rescue described with the exceptional bravery and candor of a single mom and soldier who became an American hero. Source

CNN’s Larry King Live ~ Transcript of Interview with Shoshana Johnson aired February 2, 2010

KING: We welcome Shoshana Johnson back to LARRY KING LIVE. She is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She and other members of the 507th Maintenance Company were taken captive March 23, 2003. She was held prisoner 22 days. Author of a terrific new book I’m Still Standing; From Captive US Soldier to Free Citizen, My Journey Home.”

Before we get into this, what do you make of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell controversy?

SHOSHANA JOHNSON, FORMER POW: Silly. If men and women want to serve in our military, I really don’t care who they want to sleep with. It’s all about serving your country.

KING: So you would repeal it?

JOHNSON: Yes, definitely.

KING: It’s been seven years since you were a POW. Do you think about it a lot?

I'm Still Standing by Shoshana JohnsonJOHNSON: Still. Very much so. The conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq is still in the media, so it’s hard to forget.

KING: How were you caught?

JOHNSON: During an ambush, vehicles were disabled. Basically, it seemed like the whole city of Nazariyah came out and participated in the ambush. I was shot and — shot and caught, basically.

Read the entire transcript here
Read a sample chapter

Shoshana Johnson tells her side of the story to Matt Lauer of The Today Show

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Shoshana Johnson actually said she wanted to tell her story, because there were a lot of distortions and half truths about the details of her capture. She wanted to set the record straight. I appreciate Shoshana’s resolve and passion for not only surviving the trauma of being a POW, but her courage and drive to THRIVE.~Shanti

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Vice President Biden’s Meets with U.N. Secretary General’s Special Representative for Iraq

posted by: Audiegrl

Vice President Joe Biden meets with U.N Special Representative for Iraq, second from left, Ad Melkert, in the Roosevelt Room, January 5, 2010

The Vice President met with the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Representative for Iraq Ad Melkert, to discuss developments in Iraq. The Vice President offered continued U.S. government support for the indispensable role of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq and thanked Mr. Melkert for his leadership, highlighting his recent support for Iraqi efforts to approve an election law. They discussed preparations for the upcoming national elections and pledged to help the Iraqis resolve outstanding national unity issues.

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On Obama’s War in Afghanistan: — More Loans, Fewer Drones

blogpost by Ogenec

I am looking forward to hearing Obama’s speech tonight. I do hope, however, that we don’t get the kind of speech he is so adept at giving: the one where he impresses us with his mastery of nuance and ability to understand all sides of a multi-faceted issue. At this point, even his detractors are prepared to concede him that point. The question is not his capacity for reflection, but his capacity for conviction. If he believes the war is worth fighting, he must convince us of that. More to the point, he must convince us we need to sacrifice for the effort. If, however, he does not believe this war is worth fighting in the long term, then he must also convince us of that.

And here I’ll digress to state my own opinion. I think that the term “war” is not the right one, and it just distorts the analysis to look at it from that perspective. We are not at “war” with Afghanistan. But we should do whatever it takes to deny the Taliban and Al Qaeda sanctuary. Not just because of Af-Pak, although Pakistan is tremendously important: ISI, nukes, Kashmir, and all that. In my own opinion, the problem is what a time series would show: that Islamic fundamentalism is spreading and metastizing, from the Middle East into Asia, Europe, and even sub-Saharan Africa. It will take a concerted, global effort to reverse this trend, and it behooves all countries to get involved, and to stop playing geo-political games with the issue.  Russia is learning that lesson the hard way.   They imagined that they could use Iran as a pawn in their geopolitical chess match with the  United States.   But the recent terrorist attack in Russia demonstrates the limits of that strategy: Russia can make nice with the Iranian theocrats all it wants, but that will not deter the fundamentalists from their vision of a Caliphate that spans Asia, Europe and Africa. By whatever means necessary.

Similarly, pacifists, progressives, liberals (or whatever they want to call themselves) should recognize the limits of their strategy.  Repudiating Bush’s silly pre-emptive war doctrine does not mean that we should end the effort in Afghanistan, and “just bring the troops home.”  Again, that view severely misapprehends the existential nature of the threat. That said, I do agree that there is something to the “Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle” argument: that by intervening militarily in Afghanistan, we perpetuate the disaffection that leads to the very fundamentalism we are trying to prevent.  I get that.  But that does not mean we abandon the endeavor: it means that we transform it. We should not make the mistake with Karzai that Bush made with Musharraf, and prop up a corrupt administration with divided loyalties. Rather, we should help the local populace with economic alternatives: more micro loans, less drones, to coin a phrase. So the focus on troop numbers misses the point in my view. The question is, what is the purpose of the troops? This is what I want to hear from Obama tonight. Tell me that the troops are a means to an end, not the end in and of themselves.

And, while you’re at it, tell me how we are going to pay for it. Make this a national call to action, and Americans will be happy to do their share. But you’ve gotta make the case.  My vote: WaPo’s prescription of a gasoline tax.

Related discussion:
Tom Ricks C-span interview: What’s next in Afghanistan? 12/1/2009

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