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Tilting at Windmills

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February 27, 2009

ENDING THE WAR IN IRAQ.... It's going to take some time, but President Obama is bringing the war in Iraq to an end.

In his remarks at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Mr. Obama said, "Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.

"As we carry out this drawdown, my highest priority will be the safety and security of our troops and civilians in Iraq," he said. "We will proceed carefully, and I will consult closely with my military commanders on the ground and with the Iraqi government. There will surely be difficult periods and tactical adjustments. But our enemies should be left with no doubt: this plan gives our military the forces and the flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners, and to succeed."

He added: "Under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned."

After August 2010, a residual force (35,000 to 50,000 troops) -- the administration refers to them as a "transition force" -- would remain in Iraq "to advise and train Iraqi security forces, conduct discrete counterterrorism missions and protect American civilian and military personnel working in the country." The number of U.S. troops in Iraq would then fall to zero by the end of 2011.

As we discussed the other day, military commanders and national security advisers differed on strategies, and responded to the president's request with a series of alternatives. The 16-month withdrawal process was weighed against a 23-month timeline. As Obama is often inclined to do, he reportedly chose a 19-month strategy as a compromise. The result is a withdrawal timeline that reportedly satisfies the concerns "of all of Mr. Obama's national security team," including the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs, and Gens. David Petraeus and Ray Odierno.

What's more, after years of passionate opposition to any kind of withdrawal timeline, Republican lawmakers appear to support the Obama policy, which the president presented to lawmakers at a White House meeting last night. John McCain, for example, called the president's plan "reasonable" (though he credited George W. Bush for making it possible). John Boehner also extended his tacit support.

And with that, as Spencer Ackerman explained, "The Iraq debate is over."

Well, at least the debate as we've seen it in the halls of Congress in recent years. Several Democratic leaders have voiced strong concerns about the size of the "transition force." What's more, for all of the success in reducing violence in Iraq, long-term political progress remains elusive, and will have to be a high priority for the administration.

Still, Obama has outlined the beginning of the end. It's about time.

Steve Benen 1:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

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And the result of Georgie Bush's war? At best a government that's aligned with our best friend Iran.

Mission accomplished!

Posted by: MichMan on February 27, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

"...he credited George W. Bush for making it possible..."

Hard to argue with that. Without W, there'd be no troops in Iraq to bring home.

Posted by: Robert earle on February 27, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

John McCain credited George W. Bush with making the ending of the Iraq war possible? How True. How True. Ya can't end something that never started, after all. So George was pivotal, I tell you, pivotal to ending the Iraq war. This Obama guy was sure lucky that George W. had the wisdom to start a war he couldn't finish just so Obama could come in and end it easily just, what, eight or nine years after it started. How gracious of George not to have ended it prematurely, garnering all the credit, when obviously he could have.


Posted by: aimai on February 27, 2009 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

NO, he is NOT “ending combat” in Iraq, given that his own Pentagon has said “noncombat” troops will see combat.

I’m sure this is an issue where, contra John Judis, Mainstream Liberal Blogs like Steve’s are NOT going to have any pushback for Obama.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 27, 2009 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Per Steve's incorrect information/claim that Obama will end combat when he won't, of course it's no wonder that the GOP likes the plan more than Congressional Democratic leadership.

More troops, no guaranteed end to combat.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 27, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Socratic Gadfly - I suppose reading comprehension might not be your strongsuit: "The number of U.S. troops in Iraq would then fall to zero by the end of 2011."

What that article you were referring to says is that the residual forces wouldn't be out by the 19 month deadline, and that they'd have noncombat roles and most of them would never see combat. And FYI: That article was from Wednesday. Today is Friday. They're now saying that there will be zero troops by 2011 and this is the official announcement. Try to keep up.

Of course, I'm just a koolaid drinking Obama hack, so feel free to ignore any facts I present. But if you wanted to be better about this, you should wait to attack Obama until his actual plans are announced. The article you were using even says the announcement wasn't going to happen until today.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 27, 2009 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

I'll believe it when I see it.

Iraq sits on top of one of the world's last, biggest, best, mostly untapped reserves of high-quality, cheaply extractable oil.

The giant oil corporations, on whose behalf Cheney and Bush launched their war of unprovoked aggression to install Ahmed Chalabi as the "new improved Saddam" to head up an authoritarian, petro-puppet regime propped up by a huge, long-term US military occupation, will not give up easily on their aspirations to possess that "prize".

Only when the industrialized world, the US in particular, moves beyond fossil fuels to an energy economy based on harvesting clean, abundant, endless, FREE solar and wind energy, will the Middle East be free from military aggression.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 27, 2009 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's war budget: Another 600+Billion for the Pentagon and 140 billion extra for Afghanistan and Iraq. Count all the other goodies like homeland security, etc. and you come up with a 1 trillion budget for the military.

We already spend more than the rest of the world combined on the military. We have 30,000 nuclear bombs, nearly 1,000 military bases all over the world. Who is our enemy and what is their force projection? Do we need 12 aircraft carrier squadrons to fight suicide bombers and IED’s?

Cut the military budget to half its size and we would still dominate the world. The 130 billion to Afghanistan and Iraq is money down the drain. Our insane mission impossible to right wrong in the middle east and grab the oil while we’re doing it, proved impossible. Save that money and get out now.

Pentagon money down the drain! Better spend the money here for stuff we can grow an economy on. And please no more bubble economies, no more globalized information age economies where our best and brightest bankers take in junk mortgages, slice, dice and collaterise them with a few clicks of the computer, then these elite schooled ,information-age, globalized bankers had the rating companies rate this junk as AAA securities , which were then leveraged 30x and sold all over the world as GOLD! (Causing Iceland and others to collapse!)This is a crime scene, not an economy! Can we go back to making things ?

Posted by: Dr Wu, I'm just an ordinary guy on February 27, 2009 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

But Secular Animist - Your argument has already been debunked by reality. Sure, there were morons like Cheney's oil buddies who thought having US troops there was a brilliant idea, but that just shows what moronic dinosaurs they are. Having troops in Iraq doesn't secure us the oil. If anything, it makes the Iraqi's hate us more, making it LESS likely we'll get the oil for ourselves. And if we don't get the oil, they'd prefer that NO ONE gets the oil; because putting this oil on the market will lower prices. It's much better for them that the whole country goes up in flames than for Iraq to be stable and sell the oil on their own.

And their whole premise was a mistake. It was entirely implausible that the Iraqi's would be so grateful to us that they'd just sell their oil reserves at discount prices. The idea that we'd install the New Saddam was just as idiotic as all the other puppets we've ever installed. Either they get booted from office for being our puppet or they go rogue and become our enemy. And that trend will only get stronger in this modern age. All the leaders of these oil countries realize that the US is their bitch and there's little we can do about it beyond invading.

And so while I have little doubt that you're correct about their motives, you're incorrect in thinking that Obama should be concerned about this. In this case, we've already lost the oil. Even Cheney can't honestly believe the Iraqi's will give it to us at discount rates. And so stability in Iraq is their enemy. Perhaps they don't realize this yet, but they really should.

Honestly, I never thought we were in Iraq any longer for their oil. This was entirely for domestic political purposes, as Republicans just couldn't admit that they screwed up. And with them out of the way, nothing will stop us. And I can't imagine what enticement Obama could have to not go through with his plan. Keeping troops in Iraq is idiotic from every standpoint. I think he knows that better than I do.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 27, 2009 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

In crediting Bush, McCain said this is only possible because of the success of the "surge," forgetting that none of this would have been necessary without Bush's determination to start a needless war.

Posted by: qwerty on February 27, 2009 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't the math add up to 18 (not 19) months?

Posted by: 18 months,not 19 on February 27, 2009 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

To echo SecularAnimist: I'll believe it when I see it. The U.S. corporate-military cabal did not go to Iraq so they could leave. I stand by the prediction I made at the start of this clusterfuck: Our troops will eventually have to shoot their way out of that place. If there's a god, I would pray that I'm proven wrong.

Posted by: Bikelib on February 27, 2009 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Bikelib - While I'm not prone to defending the neo-cons, I can assure you that they absolutely DID send our troops there to pull them out. We know this. We were already withdrawing troops from Iraq by that summer. We know that the plan was that we could start pulling our troops out and the French, Russians, and others would come to us, hat in hand, and BEG to be included in our coalition; so they could get some of the plunder for themselves. That was the neo-con plan. We were supposed to come in, take over, install our government, and leave; having the full reins of power in our hands.

Dude, this is totally old news. So old that I'd have trouble finding it again, but I assure you, it's all official. We know Rummy was withdrawing troops before realizing what a quagmire we were in and had to send them back in again. The neo-con point was to show that we could easily invade countries without getting stuck there; thus refuting the Powell Doctrine and our post-Vietnam squeamishness for war. Keeping troops in Iraq for all these years was a HUGE blunder. The primary reason Bush wanted war was so that he could have a victory to ride into the 2004 election; which is why he declared victory so early. Instead, the war was a stone around his neck that only got heavier the longer we stayed. And rather than refuting the fears of Vietnam, it only reinforced them.

As I suggested above, the only reason we're there was for domestic politics. Republicans just couldn't admit that they screwed up. But I can't imagine how any oil exec could believe he's getting his oily hands on that Iraqi oil any time soon, so they'd be happier if the place went up in flames. And if they want troops to stay, it could only be because they fear the country will calm down after we leave, and they certainly wouldn't want that. But that oil will never be ours no matter how many troops stay.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 27, 2009 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is just parroting the line the GOP is going to use to explain away the Iraq screw-ups. Sure, Obama was able to pull out the troops, but only because The Surge 'won' the war. Hence they were right, and deserve the credit for success, while Obama, who was wrong in opposing The Surge, doesn't deserve any credit at all.

The fact that The Surge was a PR operation to distract attention away from the real reasons violence in Iraq declined over 2008 (the completion of ethnic-cleansing, mass-bribery of Sunni Insurgent groups, Iranian support for the ruling Shia Government, and the likely result of the American elections) doesn't factor into the GOP's equations. It doesn't have to. It's not like anyone in their voter base or the MSM is ever going to mention it.

But you all knew that anyway.

Posted by: Tony J on February 27, 2009 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

This is bullshit Obama.

Posted by: Rick on February 27, 2009 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Biobrain, no, YOU don't read enough. In support of that fact, I quote the second-last graf of the story:

Representative John M. McHugh of New York, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Mr. Obama had reassured him that he would revisit the plan if circumstances changed.

So, this AIN'T set in stone.

As for your beverage of choie, you're ignoring BO's whole foreign policy stance in this part of the world so far.

Two Predator strikes inside Pakistan first week in office. The "surge" in Afghanistan not enough, with Obama already talking about yet more troops.

The idea that Obama would do this rapid of a volte-face, other than talk about the IDEA of a real withdrawal to give Pelosi et al cover in the midterms, is ridiculous. (And, yes, I suspect that's part of what's happened. Pelosi and Reid kicked his shins hard enough.)

Remember, although Obama talked blank-check withdrawal in the Dem primaries (and, IMO, the only reason he beat Clinton), in the general election and beyond, he has always caveated any withdrawal per the advice of military brass hats.

Finally, as Secular Animist will probably note, even if Obama DOES remove them all... they ain't leaving the Middle East.

To further expose this nonsense, I suggest you read the most recent posts at Out of Iraq Bloggers Caucus.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 27, 2009 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Cutting and running. I'm so ashamed.

You'll see. Now that they know the timeline, there will be 19 months of peace and calm as Al Queda bides it's time and on the day our last soldier leaves they will pounce on the nascent Iraqi government producing an impregnable terrorist fortress. Or something.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on February 27, 2009 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

"In this case, we've already lost the oil."

How stupid do you have to be to believe that the Iraq War was fought to secure access to Iraqi oil.

Before the war, Hussein was begging to sell oil to the US. If all we wanted was oil, all we had to do was say, "yes."

Even today, our sworn enemies in Iran and Venezuela are happy to sell us oil. Sheesh, get a life.

Posted by: DBL on February 27, 2009 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Dr. Biobrain, in "refuting" Bikelib, you totally ignored the neocon plan of building all the permanent bases in Iraq.

And, NO, it's not just "domestic policy." From the Carter Doctrine on (Google it, since you're apparently not cognizant with it), it's been official U.S. policy that, in essence, it will due what it needs to get oil from the Middle East. It's why we reflagged tankers during the Gulf War. It's part of why trigger-happy servicemen shot down the Iranian civilian jet.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 27, 2009 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Hope we learn the lesson from VietNam,hurry withdrawn might end up million of new refugee enter the US.

Posted by: david lee on February 27, 2009 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

"You'll see. Now that they know the timeline, there will be 19 months of peace and calm as Al Queda bides it's time and on the day our last soldier leaves they will pounce on the nascent Iraqi government producing an impregnable terrorist fortress. Or something."

Do you seriously think the Shiite government is going to allow Sunni Al Qaeda to run around and the shoot up the place? The more likely scenario is civil war, and Al Qaeda will have no serious role in that fight. If they try to interfere, the Shiites will squash them like a bug (with the help of Iran). Al Qaeda is only popular when they're killing Americans, I'm afraid.

Posted by: bdop4 on February 27, 2009 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Gadfly - It's obvious that this policy isn't set in stone. As I'm sure you're aware, there are no guarantees in life and even if you were president, this policy wouldn't be set in stone. I don't know about you, but I actually like having a president who revisits his plans when reality changes. I consider pragmatism to be a positive trait and not the sign of weakness Bush thought it was.

Thus said, the facts we have don't support your attacks on us. You used an article that said some of the residual forces might see combat, and interpreted that as meaning that we were there forever. Obama has now stated that he plans for all troops to be out of Iraq by 2011, and that's the information we have to work with. Yet you ignored this point entirely and pretended as if he hadn't made it. I suspect you didn't even read this post before linking to your two-day old story. Because it entirely undermines the point you made. Your point wasn't that Obama might revisit his plans, but that the plans weren't real withdrawal because of the residual forces that might see combat. Now that you've been proven wrong, you attack me for something else.

And honestly, at this point it's fairly obvious that your intellectual honesty is nonexistent and you're only coming here to attack anyone who disagrees with you. I fail to see why you bother. If you want to make points that are based on reality, go for it. But if all you've got is to denounce us all as koolaid drinkers because we don't agree with your unfounded assertions, then you're just wasting your time.

Again, you came here because you thought you had a news story that undermined Benen's post. That story is obviously moot, but the attacks continue all the same.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 27, 2009 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Ahh, Dr. B., but "Plans" is different than "WILL."

As for my original link, NOTHING has changed in Iraq in the last 48-72 hrs to change military advice to Obama.

What HAS happened is Pelosi and Reid kicked him in the shins.

Ergo, the "updated" schedule is for domestic political consumption, to tack on the issue you first raised.

Guess you don't read political tea leaves well, either?

And, to me, Obama has little believability quotient on this issue.

If this was his actual plan, then why didn't he announce it two days ago?

Come up with a better excuse for your next comment.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 27, 2009 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

If Petraeus likes it, it's a fucking disaster - for the troops, for the military as a whole, for Iraq, for President Obama, for the Democratic Party and for the nation.

Petraeus is out for himself, and only himself. I hope President Obama realizes that he is not Petraeus' Commander in Chief, he's just an obstacle to Petraeus' ambitions.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on February 27, 2009 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Gadfly - This is what they ALWAYS do. They put out a few stories about how they're going to come out with an announcement, and then they make the announcement, adding more details. That's what it said in the article you quoted, that he was going to make the announcement on Friday. How is that a problem? If anything, the problem is that you jumped the gun and attacked a plan that hadn't been announced.

And again, I have no problem with you believing whatever you want to believe. If you want to assume that Obama is doing this in bad faith, good for you. We need differences of opinion. But what you're doing is attacking everyone who doesn't agree with you, smearing us as biased fools because we have a difference of opinion. And in this case, attacking us because we're reading political tea leaves differently than you are. We have Obama's statements on our side, as well as the belief that staying in Iraq would be an epic blunder for Obama. And all you can do is assert that he's lying. You can disagree all you want, but your attacks on us are entirely embarrassing.

But again, all this is a non-issue. Your original comment here and your post that you linked to attacked Obama for his plan to keep residual troops in Iraq indefinitely; as well as attacking everyone that wasn't attacking Obama for it. This story says the plan is not how you thought it was. But rather than admit error, you just attack me for pointing out your error. Brilliant strategy.

A simple "I was mistaken about Obama's plan to keep combat troops in Iraq indefinitely, but think he's going to change this plan and keep them there" really wouldn't be too hard and would certainly make you look a lot more intelligent. Or, you can keep attacking me for pointing out your mistake.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 27, 2009 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

You guys are hilarious! Truth is the Iraq war was won during the first month of combat, after that there was a low level insurgency that was doomed to failure without any charismatic leadership on the Jihadist side. Bush won the war and was withdrawing troops under, by and large, the same timeline as the Big O give or take a few months. As for your delusions about anyone “stealing” the oil…. Oh My God, are you people funny. Iraq sells it oil through OPEC you Morons! You think some one might notice, all the unregistered oil tankers sneaking the oil to George Bush’s “secret” under ground oil facility hidden under his ranch. You guys need to add a few more layers of Tin foil to your hats.

Posted by: Scott on February 27, 2009 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

So why did the US invade Iraq?

Posted by: 2Manchu on February 27, 2009 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

The U.S. maintained that Iraq was not cooperating with UN inspectors and had not met its obligations to 17 UN resolutions. The U.S. felt that Resolution 1441 called for the immediate, total unilateral disarmament of Iraq and continued to show frustration at the fact that months after the resolution was passed Iraq was still not, in its view, disarming. Language in Resolution 1441 recalled that the use of "all means necessary" was still authorized and in effect from Resolution 678, and therefore maintained that if Iraq failed to comply with the "one final chance to comply" provision of Resolution 1441, then military action would be the result.

Posted by: Scott on February 27, 2009 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Or, Dr. B, I can write that I'm ignoring you, just to make sure that you don't know that I'm ignoring you by not writing this.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 27, 2009 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

The US maintained, but not the United Nations, the ones responsible for the resolutions in the first place.

And if the Bush and Blair administration had evidence of Iraq not disarming, they should have provided it to the UN chief inspector to Iraq, Hans Blix. But they did not.

And since we're cutting and pasting, I'll throw this out there ( from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/mar/13/qanda.politics )

"Nevertheless, there are arguments, if not very convincing ones, that the proposed US and UK action would be lawful. In particular, it is argued that security council resolution 678 (1990) provides express security council authorisation for force. That resolution, adopted by the security council in response to the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait, authorised the American-led coalition to use "all necessary means" to liberate Kuwait and restore peace and security to the region.

"Hostilities in the Gulf war were then terminated by resolution 687 (1991), which imposed a lengthy list of obligations on Iraq, including several regarding disarmament. Iraq is in breach of those obligations. Indeed, resolution 1441 found it to be in "material breach" of them. Accordingly, so the argument goes, the authorisation to use force granted the US and the UK by resolution 678 has been re-activated.

"However, there are problems with this analysis. First, it is generally considered that security council authorisations of force are only for limited and specific purposes. In the case of resolution 678, the authorisation to use force terminated with the adoption of resolution 687. Secondly, such an analysis was specifically rejected by security council members in their explanations for their votes on resolution 1441. The general view was that resolution 1441 did not provide for "automaticity", that is, it did not trigger any authorisation to use force.

"Finally, it might be thought that even if resolution 678 did permit the USA and the UK to use force to enforce Iraq's disarmament obligations, it does not provide authority for regime change."

And lastly, if violations of UN resolutions was the main reason for invading Iraq, why hasn't military force and regime change been applied the other "Axis of Evil" natinos, North Korea and Iran?

Posted by: 2Manchu on February 27, 2009 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

What the hell is a "natinos"?

Where's the damn spellcheck on this thing?

Posted by: 2Manchu on February 27, 2009 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Or, Dr. B, I can write that I'm ignoring you, just to make sure that you don't know that I'm ignoring you by not writing this.

Sorry to have disrupted your bubble, Gadfly. Is that also why I got a "invalid user" response when I tried posting a comment at your blog?

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on February 27, 2009 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

At 8:25 PM Doctor Biobrain posted "...Is that why I got a (sic) "invalid user" response when I tried posting a comment on your blog?".
Must have been a mechanical problem, since anyone using the adjectival form of "Socrates" surely welcomes debate - even when they're shown to be in error.

Posted by: Doug on February 27, 2009 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

Why is it we never hear the words "win the war" from the Democrats? That's how wars are ended-you win or you lose. The Democrats seem to feel that it is somehow wrong for the US to win any conflict. Why is that?

Posted by: jbadair on February 27, 2009 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure the surge helped.

That is, after the ethnic cleansing of the country (the main reason for the high level of violence, not al Qaeda) that segregated it into Sunni and Shia regions. This segregation has also been possible due to the construction of over 100 miles of concrete barriers and walls that keep the factions separate.

Not to mention the departure of over 2 million Iraqis from the country, most of whom are refugees in Syria and Iraq (not too many were let into the US by the Bush administration, for some reason).

You also have the bribing of former Sunni insurgents by US forces in Anbar province, which began before the surge. Paid to not necessarily follow the central government, just to not kill US forces.

And lastly, you had the ceasefire declared by Sadr upon his militia forces, probably the the most powerful military force in Iraq after the US.

After these events, then the surge can be seen as having a role.

Personally, I'm glad that we can finally talk about reducing US force levels, and also when the eventual total redeployment will be completed.

Even if it means having to listen to chickenhawks root for the war like it's a football game.

As for Iran. First off, what evidence is there of them developing a nuclear weapon "within months"?

Secondly, are they in possession of missiles capable of reaching the west coast of the United States?

And lastly, assuming they gain a limited nuclear capability, and they do possess a missile, how does that somehow make the US nuclear force (with hundreds of missiles and thousands of warheads) somehow impotent.

If holding the US hostage with a few nuclear weapons, without concern or fear of reprisal, is a strategy seen to have potential, wouldn't the Soviet Union had tried it during the Cold War, with their TENS OF THOUSANDS of nuclear weapons?

Posted by: 2Manchu on February 27, 2009 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

If jbadair was anything but an armchair general he would know that occupations are not won, they are endured, by both the occupied and the occupiers. The war in Iraq was won the moment Saddam Hussein fled the palace in 2oo3. That is when the roles - and the rules - changed. And that is just how it is.

Posted by: Blue Girl on February 28, 2009 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK



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