On the News With Thom Hartmann: The Iraq War Is Officially Over, and More

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Today – the war in Iraq is officially over. What began with a shock and awe campaign nearly nine years ago – ended quietly this morning with U.S. troops taking down an American flag flying over Baghdad. Only 4,000 troops now remain in Iraq – and they’ll all be home by the end of the year – with a hundred or so remaining to guard the U.S. embassy. In the end – nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers gave their lives for George Bush's war – and another 30,000 were injured. Hundreds of thousands of civilians and Iraqi soldiers were killed and millions more displaced by Bush and Rove. What we’re leaving behind is sectarian violence still lingering in the wake of years of foreign occupation. We know now that this was an illegal war. It was a war that George W. Bush was hell-bent on starting well before he was even elected President. As he told his biographer Mickey Herskowitz in 1999 – he was going to invade Iraq to become a wartime president so he could get enough political capital to privatize Social Security, the same way Reagan got a bump from the Grenada invasion. He got his war – and it exacted an incredible toll on our nation’s soldiers – our treasure – and our reputation around the world. In a ceremony from Baghdad – Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, “We do not forget the lessons of war.” Let’s hope not – and let’s never again let a war-criminal president drive us into a war just to up his approval numbers.

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Once again – Republicans are threatening to screw over 800,000 federal workers who could be sent home without pay at the end of the week if the government shuts down. Cabinet secretaries are alerting their employees that this is a very real possibility now that negotiations on a funding bill to keep the government running beyond this week have stalled. Earlier this week – it seemed like negotiators from both parties reached a deal on a spending bill – but then Republicans jammed it full of controversial provisions related to Cuba, abortion, environmental regulations, and Wall Street reform. As Senator Harry Reid said from the floor of the Senate yesterday, “I think that everyone can see very clearly that my friends on the other side of the aisle obviously want to have the government shut down.” This isn't the first time Republicans have brought us to the brink of a government shutdown – they did the same thing earlier this year over funding for Planned Parenthood. This is plain and simple a hostage situation. Republicans are holding 800,000 federal workers hostage to push a radical right-wing agenda. It's no way to govern a nation.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Democrats may cave on the payroll tax cut. The latest reports coming from Capitol Hill indicated Democrats are ready to abandon their efforts to raise taxes on millionaires in order to pay for the extension of the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans. Now – Democrats are exploring other ways to pay for the tax cut extension – such as spending cuts. So it looks like once again – millionaires and billionaires in America are going to escape another political battle without paying their fair share in taxes. We're at war – and millionaires haven't paid an extra penny. We're in debt – and millionaires haven't paid an extra penny. Our infrastructure is crumbling – and millionaires haven't paid an extra penny. This isn't what happens in a democracy – it's what happens in an Oligarchy.

The middle class is becoming an endangered species in America. According to the latest census data – half of the country is now living in poverty or just scraping by in a low-income lifestyle. And this problem is being made worse as conservative Governors cut funding to critical social welfare programs. A survey of 29 mayors around America found that 1-in-4 Americans in need of food assistance did not receive any help. Since the banksters wrecked our economy – 4 million homes have been foreclosed on – and each year more than one-and-a-half million children end up homeless. Meanwhile corporate CEOs saw a 40% increase last year in their pay. And at 25 of our biggest corporations, CEOs were paid more than the entire corporation paid in taxes. And the folks at GOP TV still can't understand why people are occupying the streets? It's the inequality, stupid!

Obamacare is working. According to new data – 2.5 million young Americans now have health insurance thanks to President Obama’s health reform law. Also – 3 million seniors have saved $1.5 billion on their medications – and 17 million children with pre-existing conditions can keep their health insurance without being denied. So why is every single Republican campaigning on a pledge to repeal Obamacare?

There are reports coming out of Wisconsin that the “recall Governor Scott Walker” campaign has finally reached its goal. At a press conference today organizers of the recall effort are announcing they have collected more than the 540,000 signatures needed to trigger a recall election – more than a month ahead of schedule. The moral of the story: don’t mess with working people.

A team of Russian scientists have made a disturbing discovery in the Arctic Ocean. The team – from the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences – uncovered massive plumes – or what they’re calling “fountains” – of methane gas pouring out of the surface of the melting arctic seabed. Methane is 20-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas – and scientists estimate there are hundreds of millions of tons of methane gas locked beneath the arctic sea ice. And if our planet continues to warm – then that methane could be unleashed into the atmosphere – rapidly accelerating climate change. According to the team of Russian scientists – that’s already happening. Unfortunately – when it comes to climate change – we may have passed the point of no return. Now – it’s time to begin adapting to a rapidly changing planet.

And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, December 15th, 2011. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.