updated 1/3/2007 12:14:07 PM ET 2007-01-03T17:14:07

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Lawrence Korb, Rajev Chandrasekaran

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Sacrifice, and more troops.  The president has reportedly decided, finally, his new course in Iraq, and it is, reportedly, the old course, only with more dead Americans.  No focus on training Iraqi forces, just on increasing the number of American troops, and to be sold to their loved ones and to the rest of us under the brand name sacrifice.

While the administration seems ready to sacrifice, General Casey on the altar of public blame.

Full coverage ahead.  Richard Wolffe on the politics of, This didn‘t work, so let‘s do more of it.  Lawrence Korb on listening to the generals and scapegoating one of them.

And special comment on when sacrificing others ceases to be even a president‘s right.

What rights did this man have?  Or was the question not, Did even he deserve more respect? but rather, did not his executioners need to show any transgressor respect?

And what to do now about a martyred Saddam Hussein?

The penultimate day of farewells in a city of ceremony and solemnity, Washington, where the 38th president of the United States, and his last trip home, the remains of Gerald Ford back now in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

And the comic relief.  She wasn‘t drunk and passed out an hour into the new year.  Her people say she was asleep at a nightclub one hour into the new year.  Well, that‘s all right, then.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from Washington.

Without in any way minimizing the death of President Gerald R. Ford and the often moving, even majestic funeral service held for him here in the nation‘s capital this morning, we begin this newshour tonight with the service to our country of 3,003 other Americans who have already died in Iraq, and the report that the current president is looking to increase the number of Americans at risk there and to try to sell that increase to the rest of us under what amounts to the brand name, sacrifice.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, senior administration officials confirming to NBC News tonight that President Bush intends to unveil a week from today a new plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq, the BBC having reported earlier that the central theme of his speech will be sacrifice, Mr. Bush looking to assure the American public that he indeed has a strategy for victory in Iraq.

But NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski has learned that, according to U.S. officials, President Bush has all but decided to announce what‘s being called a strategy of surge and accelerate in Iraq, which would involve some 20,000 additional American troops being sent there, administration officials admitting that the decision is being made for political reasons and not military ones, the White House cognizant that the patience of the American people is wearing thin, if not wearing out.

As for what the troops would be doing according to the BBC, the additional forces would focus on security, not on the training of Iraqi forces.  One year ago this week, the commander in chief advocated the exact opposite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, January 2004)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  So in 2006, the, the mission is to continue to hand over more and more territory and more and more responsibility to Iraqi forces.  And as they do so, we will need fewer U.S. troops to conduct combat operations around that country.  More of our forces will be dedicated to training and supporting the Iraqi units.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  None of which happened.

My special comment ahead (INAUDIBLE) who is being blamed for the chaos that descended upon Iraq in 2006, it seems the top U.S. commander in Baghdad, General George Casey, may be on the short list for scapegoat, senior military officials telling “The New York Times” that Mr. Bush is looking to bring General Casey home from Iraq as early as next month, the general having insisted earlier this year that he did not and would not need a surge in forces in Iraq, stating it might actually be counterproductive.

Time now to call in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Richard, good evening.  Thanks for your time.

RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: 

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with an assessment of the reporting here.  The BBC‘s reporting on one of the key points, troop increases not for training but for security in Baghdad, now confirmed from the Pentagon by our Jim Miklaszewski.  Does the other part, a speech with sacrifice as its theme, also jibe with what you have heard?

WOLFFE:  Well, I don‘t know about you, but sacrifice doesn‘t sound like a winning theme to me.  And it does surprise me that the BBC Has gone with this report.

I‘m sure the president will honor the sacrifice of those who have fallen.  The one thing the president understood, going back to the days when he was Texas governor, was that you have to project victory, you have to project success, whether you‘re trying to be president or you‘re trying to win a war.

So the idea of sacrifice, you know, they even have academic research that shows that no matter how badly a war goes, as long as you tell people, Well, you‘re on a path to victory, then some people will stick with you, maybe enough people.  But some people, anyway.  So I‘m surprised that this report about sacrifice, I mean, the president still thinks he can get just about enough of his base back with him on the war.  But sacrifice doesn‘t sound like a convincing theme to me.

OLBERMANN:  Whether it‘s called sacrifice, or some new word that the president might invent between now and next week and add to the language, given this milestone, this horrid milestone of more than 3,000 Americans in uniform having been killed in Iraq, given the administration‘s fondness for viewing most of its problems in terms of public relations, is the president, in his own infamous misstatement, misunderestimating just how unpopular this plan to send more troops will be, whatever he calls it?

WOLFFE:  Well, let me tell you about public opinion and then the White House‘s view.  They do believe that the most recent slide in support for the war is basically their own supporters moving away, because, in their view, Republicans have lost confidence in the president‘s commitment to the cause, and that, in their view, again, when they hear—when his own base hears him lay out this plan, and they will all rally around.

We don‘t know if that‘s wishful thinking.  I guess the poll numbers will tell us in a couple of weeks.  But they have been slow to react to the slide in the opinion polls, really, since 2004, partly because of their own election victory in 2004, and partly because they didn‘t see 2006 coming around the corner.  So again, we‘ll see.

OLBERMANN:  The proposal, at least what was floated to the BBC, what we‘re putting together between that reporting and mixed reporting, would seem to have the vice president‘s fingerprints all over it.  Is it possible that we should be concluding now that reports of Dick Cheney‘s policy demise had been greatly exaggerated?

WOLFFE:  Well, as someone who‘s reported that, I would say no.  look, the president is (INAUDIBLE) -- has come to this position on his own.  Maybe he leant on Dick Cheney—well, he did lean on Dick Cheney very heavily in the first couple of years of his first term.  But, you know, he doesn‘t need someone to tell him at this point that his whole legacy rides on it.  It‘s got to work or else, and that failure for him and for the country is a really unacceptable option.

So it doesn‘t surprise me that he has taken a position that Cheney also takes, which is, they need to make this one look better, and do it quickly.

OLBERMANN:  And one last extrapolation that you can shoot down if it‘s wrong, but perhaps there‘s no accident that the Democratic Congress is set to begin on Thursday, swearing in tomorrow, some Democrats already saying they would not fund a troop increase no matter what you call it.  Could what we have been hearing here actually be some part of a bigger plan that involves shifting the blame, never mind General Casey, let‘s pin the tail on the Democrats?

WOLFFE:  You know, I think the White House has made the calculation that Democrats are not going to pull the plug on funding for the troops, in which case, their view is, everything else is just commentary.  So I think the real test for politics here is what the administration leaves to its potential successes.  The 2008 field, for the White House, is more important than the Democratic Congress.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” great thanks, and a great new year to you.

WOLFFE:  And to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For more on passing the blame, let us now address the military implications of the purported and reported Bush plan.

Joining us now, a Pentagon veteran from the Reagan administration, former assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb, who is now a fellow at the Center for American Progress.

As always, sir, thank you for some of your time tonight.

LAWRENCE KORB, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Nice to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  If, in 2006, this administration‘s mistake in Iraq was sacrificing security in the name of training Iraqi forces, why would sacrificing training now in the name of more security be any less disastrous?

KORB:  Yes, it won‘t be any less disaster.  In fact, General Casey is right.  I mean, he says if you put more troops in there, this will increase the Iraqis‘ dependence on us, and it will prevent them from making the painful political compromises necessary to create an Iraq that people are willing to fight and die for.  He‘s the one that‘s right.  The president is the one that‘s wrong.

OLBERMANN:  Could we, in some way, be missing some part of a cost-benefit analysis?  Is there some fact that we don‘t know about here?  Is there anything on the other side of the equation, any perceptible value in sending 20,000 more Americans into Iraq, especially if they‘re not designated as trainers for the Iraqis?

KORB:  No value.  You sent about 20,000 more troops into Iraq last fall.  And what happened is, your casualties went up.  If you send another 20,000 troops, your casualties are going to go up, you‘re going to increase the Iraqis‘ dependence on us.  And, as General Casey pointed out in an interview with “The New York Times,” we‘re going to get blamed if things don‘t go right.

You know, people talk about, Well, we got to train the Iraqis more.  Nonsense.  What you—the problem is motivation.  We wanted six Iraqi battalions to go into Iraq, only two showed up.  It‘s not that they weren‘t trained.  The fact is, they weren‘t motivated, because these political compromises weren‘t made.

OLBERMANN:  And General Casey would seem to know something about blame.  It‘s clear that he is against any plan to send more troops, extensively quoted to that effect.  What happened to the idea that the president was taking his lead, the proverbial, I‘m listening to the generals on the ground?  It appears that if he listens to them, and the general happens to disagree with him, it‘s time to replace the general.

KORB:  Oh, very definitely.  I mean, look what happened to General Shinseki, who told the country and the president before the war, you could not hope to secure Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein without several hundred thousand troops.  The number was about 500,000.

Well, they said he didn‘t know what he was talking about.  Then, when it suited them to not put in more troops, and the field commanders after a while recognized that wouldn‘t work, well, then he would say, Well, I‘m going along with the military.

Now that it‘s not working, he‘s going to look for scapegoats.  The first one was Rumsfeld, and the second one, unfortunately, looks like General Casey.  General Casey deserves a promotion.  He should be made the Army chief of staff when General Schoomaker steps down in a couple of months.

OLBERMANN:  Well, of course, governments have been doing this to pessimistic but realistic generals since William Tecumseh Sherman, when he said the Civil War wasn‘t going to be over in eight months.

But a political aspect to this, the Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who‘s also opposed to sending any more troops into Iraq, described the surge option before we knew about this sort of extended surge, as Alice in Wonderland.  Is there any sense that Republicans on the Hill, others, many, might try to steer out of this skid and abandon the president on this?  Is there any way that the illogic of this policy would overcome the partisanship involved?

KORB:  Well, I think it‘s not only Senator Hagel.  You got Senator Norm Coleman from Minnesota, who has just been in Iraq.  He said it makes no sense.  You heard what Senator Gordon Smith, the Republican from Oregon, said right before Christmas, that the policy not only was wrong, he said it was absurd and may even be criminal, what we‘re doing, allowing these young men and young women to be killed and wounded day after day, with no apparent long-term strategy.

OLBERMANN:  Last point.  The president was quoted by “The New York Times” as having told the Iraq Study Group about his insistence on using the world “victory,” which has apparently been used again today.  The quote attributed to him, to, speaking to not “The Times” but to the Iraq Study Group, “It‘s a word, victory, the American people understand.  And if I start to change it, it will look like I‘m beginning to change my policy.”

What sort of snapshot does that give us as to what this policy actually is?

KORB:  It doesn‘t tell you a thing.  Victory is what General Casey says when the Iraqis make the painful political compromises necessary to create an Iraqi nation.

OLBERMANN:  Lawrence Korb, senior fellow with the Center for American Progress.  As always, sir, great thanks for your time tonight.

KORB:  Nice to be with you again.

OLBERMANN:  And ahead in this newshour, a special comment on the president‘s reported new way forward, the sacrifice of even more of our fighting men and women, despite the message of the midterm election, despite the message from that Iraq Study Group.

And the debacle that was the execution of Saddam Hussein.  His elimination was to be a turning point.  Did it become the wrong kind of turning point?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s a part of history.  It is part of our continuity, this process, as sad, as moving, some might not think of it in those terms, may see it as ritualistic or devoid of meaning.  But to experience it, to just be at 300 yards‘ distance is to be—is to feel a part of the continuity of American history.

Finding meaning, hearing history in the rituals of a day, just one of many such moments in our MSNBC coverage today of the procession of President Gerald R. Ford‘s body from the Washington institutions he loved back to the state and the home that loved him.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, America‘s farewell to that most American of presidents, a boy from a broken home, who served his country in war, who never lost his love for his old school, who took a ribbing with good humor, who may have been the only president of the last two centuries who truly wanted a lesser spot in the government.

Senior White House correspondent David Gregory takes us now through this unprecedented day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREGORY (voice-over):  On a crisp, windswept Washington morning, the casket carrying the 38th president, the common man from Michigan, was escorted from the Capitol, the emotion evident on the faces of Gerald Ford‘s children and his widow, Betty.

The cortege moved swiftly through the still of the city, slowing poignantly outside the White House.

Gathered at the National Cathedral, Washington‘s elite, former presidents, first ladies, journalists, and Ford friends who served at the highest levels of government.  President Bush escorted Mrs. Ford, the strain of the day plain to see.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH:  To know Gerry was to know a Norman Rockwell painting come to life, an avuncular figure, quick to smile, frequently with his pipe in his mouth.

GEORGE W. BUSH, President OF THE UNITED STATES:  And so, when President Nixon need to replace a vice president who had resigned in scandal, he naturally turned to a man whose name was a synonym for integrity, Gerald R. Ford.  And eight months later, when he was elevated to the presidency, it was because America needed him, not because he needed the office.

GREGORY:  Ford‘s controversial pardon of Richard Nixon was hailed today as a measure of his character.

REV. ROBERT G. CERTAIN, FORD FAMILY PASTOR:  Gerald Ford, you showed mercy when others demanded vengeance.

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS:  Gerald Ford brought to the political arena no demons, no hidden agenda, no hit lists or acts of vengeance.

GREGORY:  At one point while the choir sang, Mrs. Ford could be seen saying to daughter Susan, “It was beautiful.”

By noon, a final escort through Washington.  At Andrews Air Force Base, Ford‘s casket was loaded on the presidential aircraft.  Arriving in Grand Rapids, Michigan, President Ford was home.

A president, a family man, and a football player heard the Michigan fight song one last time.

The procession ended at the Ford Presidential Museum, for his family, the last solemn steps to this president‘s final resting place on a day of farewell.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  David Gregory reporting.

Please join me and Chris Matthews again tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, 10:00 a.m. Pacific, for live MSNBC coverage of the final day of the services for Gerald Ford, the funeral and interment of President Ford at Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Will the lives of more of our U.S. forces be on the line in Iraq?  A special comment ahead, as the current commander in chief‘s new way forward looks increasingly like more of the same nightmare.

And, so a man walks into a doctor‘s office with these lizards hanging from his face.  One of the lizards says, Hey, doc, can you get this guy off my butt?

COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was on a January 2nd past that Canada made a curious design change for its coin currency.  The Canadian mint decided that it needed a new depiction of England‘s Queen Elizabeth to give her a slightly more mature look.  Very politely phrased in all, but possibly premature, the new more mature Elizabeth went into circulation on January 2, 1965.

On that node, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Bikamir (ph), India, where a young teenager is experimenting with lizards.  Fifteen-year-old Navratan Harsh (ph) says he‘s always had a passion for reptiles but only recently began wearing them as accessories.  Apparently it does not hurt much to have them hanging from his earlobes and cheeks.  And really, when you look this good, it‘s worth a little pain in the face, to say nothing of rabies.

Remaining in India, we got a pretty good look at how Lizard Boy‘s life is going to turn out if he doesn‘t drop all this the creepy stuff and start dating.  Yes, it‘s the candle-faced dancing guy of Veranasi (ph).  Isn‘t he something?  Oh, you never want to be that old guy at the club, especially if your face is on fire.  Rajan Kumar Tiwari (ph) says he likes classical Indian dance more than this pop stuff the kids are doing now.  So he shows up at the nightclubs with half a dozen candles jammed into his mustache, and he cuts a rug.

Guess you have to be on X (ph) to really appreciate this.

He‘s become a fixture among the local club scene, but sadly, even though he can always offer the ladies a candlelit dinner every night, the candles burn out.  Every night, Rajan goes home alone.

Turning to the serious news of this day, and the seriously mishandling of the execution of Saddam Hussein, does the chaos surrounding his final moments only serve as a metaphor for the mess that is Iraq?

And back in this country, the great debate that is Britney Spears‘ New Year‘s Eve.  Did she fall asleep?  Or just fall?  The denials and the headlines continue.

Details ahead.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Randy Johnson, the venerable and virtually tallest-ever baseball pitcher, as in, that‘s a mighty big Johnson you have right there, a very good source close to the New York Yankees pitcher says he will not be a New York Yankees pitcher much longer, and he will be traded, probably by week‘s end, to another team, probably back to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Number two, Flurisha L. Cooper of Chicago providing proof that being stupid can be hazardous to your health.  Police say the 21-year-old and others were drinking—playing drinking Trivial Pursuit, taking a shot of brandy and a hit from a marijuana cigar every time she gave an incorrect answer.  Ms. Cooper got so many questions wrong, she had to be hospitalized.

And number one, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, White House correspondent for “The New York Times,” who wrote a recent article describing how presidents cope with stress.  Ms. Stolberg explained that President Bush prefers mountain biking, that FDR meditated.  But she probably wishes she could rewrite this particular line, quote, “Abraham Lincoln went to the theater to relax.”

Yes, he certainly did.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Iraq‘s government says it will investigate the unauthorized cell phone camera video taken of Saddam Hussein‘s execution.  But in our number three story on the COUNTDOWN, it remains to be seen whether that focus will be on the elicit video or what it revealed to the world.  In contrast to the official muted government video of the hanging, the leaked cell phone footage shows that Saddam Hussein maintained a semblance of dignity, but it was his masked executioners who taunted him. 

One guard telling Saddam to go to hell as an Iraqi official was heard pleading for a sense of decorum to prevail, at what was supposed to have been a solemn event, establishing credibility for the fledgling democracy and its system of fair justice. 

But more importantly, where President Bush hoped for a moment of Iraqi national unity, Saddam Hussein‘s executioners are also heard chanting the name of Moqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric whose militia has terrorized minority Sunnis.  The images and audio suggest that the militias who rule the streets have not just infiltrated Iraq‘s power structure, but they may have also co-opted it entirely.

Joining us now with more on what this disturbing video tells us is Rajev Chandrasekaran of the “Washington Post.”  He has served as Baghdad bureau chief.  He is also author of “Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Inside Iraq‘s Green Zone.”  Great thanks for your time tonight. 

RAJEV CHANDRASEKARAN, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Good to be with you. 

OLBERMANN:  Obviously this was not the kind of turning point for the Iraqi government that the U.S. hoped for.  Will be a negative turning point in Iraq or are we overreacting from our cultural and political perspective here? 

CHANDRASEKARAN:  No, I don‘t think that we are overreacting.  I think this could well be another profoundly seminal moment in relations between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq.  Clearly, this was not the moment that Iraqi prime minister and the Shiite-led government have hoped for, one that would show some closure, one that would send a message to Iraqi Sunnis that Saddam is now dead and gone, that they should lay down their arms and come and embrace the new government.  Instead it‘s had just the opposite affect.  It‘s emboldened the Sunnis. 

It‘s led them to have one of two reactions, or sometimes both at the same time.  One is a sense of deep anger and shame at the way Saddam was treated, the taunts of Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada by the guards, as well as in hearing this sound, because you didn‘t hear the sound in the official government videotape.  Now hearing the sound on the cell phone tape of Saddam being defiant, of retorting back to his guards, is this how real men behave.  Again, it sent a message to the Sunnis, oh well, Saddam is standing up for himself, and perhaps a message that might be absorbed by some of the more radical Sunnis out in Iraq is perhaps, we should stand up for ourselves like Saddam has. 

OLBERMANN:  Will there also be, in something of an ironic and not very happy twist, will this be remembered as the turning point when the world first got an honest, kind of organic glimpse of how deeply the sectarian, the partisan and the militia loyalties are insinuated into the fiber of what has replaced Saddam Hussein in the way of an Iraqi government? 

CHANDRASEKARAN:  Well, I think it‘s a different perspective on to the tension and animosity that exists between the two main groups in Iraq today, the Sunnis and the Shiites.  Up to this point we have largely seen that manifested in terms of bombings, a bombing of the Shiite shrine in Samarra, car bombings, or extra-judicial killings, people winding up dead and dumped on the side of roads.  This was different.  This was --  in this grainy cell phone video you could hear the voices of people.  You could hear this guard, in his think Arabic accent, saying Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada.  It gave a whole new dimension into the animus between Sunnis and Shiites today there. 

OLBERMANN:  Who benefited, if anybody particularly, but who benefited by getting this footage out there? 

CHANDRASEKARAN:  Well, I think, you know,  obviously the footage was taken by a Shiite, and I think that it was distributed perhaps for some financial gain.  We have no idea.  But also perhaps because whoever took it and disseminated it wanted to sort of show the world Saddam‘s final moments, and perhaps as something of a power trip maybe, but clearly the beneficiaries here are the Sunni community.  This has boomeranged on Prime Minister Maliki‘s Shiite-led government.  It has emboldened the Sunnis.  It‘s led to protest. 

It‘s led to this embarrassing call for an investigation now, which the prime minister has agreed to.  So clearly the prime minister does not get anything out of this.  He rushed forward to this execution, I think, with the hope of consolidating political some power, of showing that he was in charge, and trying to hold his fractious coalition together.  But I think that he suffered a real blow here. 

OLBERMANN:  What might have happened had this gone something more kin to the kind of western executions that we have, if not become used to, at least have come to expect? 

CHANDRASEKARAN:  Well, I think you would have seen a much more muted reaction from the Sunni community, particularly if it had not been taped and it hadn‘t happened right at the eve of this holy Muslim holiday of Eid, you probably would have seen a smaller reaction.  You might have—it might have allowed the government to more carefully manage the message to, you know, gotten out their argument that Saddam was a remorseful or, at least, something of a humbled man. 

OLBERMANN:  Rajev Chandrasekaran of the “Washington Post,” very great thanks for you incite tonight.   

CHANDRASEKARAN:  Good to be with you tonight. 

OLBERMANN:  President Bush is, as we told you earlier, reportedly poised to tell Americans that the way to fix Iraq is to send in more American troops.  A special comment tonight on the madness of what the president wants to call sacrifice. 

And forget the ball drop on new year‘s eve, where were you when Britney Spears dropped?  Details ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s a brand new year, of course, time to start fresh, shed old habits, tap into your better self and sloth off the past, or you can Britney Spears it.  In our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, the pop diva celebrating new year‘s eve in a Las Vegas night club and then promptly passed out.  Or was it fell asleep? 

Mrs. Spears was hired to host a party at a Caesar‘s Palace night club called Pure.  She led the new year‘s eve countdown, but shortly after midnight she reportedly fell asleep.  Her manager Larry Rudolph denying that drinking had anything to do with it, but he might want to rethink his phrasing.  Quoting, by about 1:00 she was just done, he told the Associate Press, so we took her out.  Elephant tranquilizers at the ready.  But he did clarify, quote, she was not drunk.  She was just tired and falling asleep.  She was absolutely not carried out of the club.  Her security and Pure‘s security walked her out.  She did not pass out or any of that. 

Rudolph also denied, for good measure, that his client had to seek medical attention.  Of course, Mrs. Spears had notably wrapped up the year 2006 by filing for divorce from husband Kevin Federline in November, and then partying with BFFN, best friend for now, Paris Hilton.  But Mrs.  Hilton was nowhere to be seen near Vegas as year 2007 rolled in, so Mrs.

Spears can claim some improvement already. 

The soon to be former husband, Fed-Ex, spending news year eve getting slammed, but neither was he drunk.  That the segue into our nightly roundup of celebrity and tabloid news, Keeping Tabs.  Mr. Federline squared off against the WWE pro wrestling champ John Cena.  It was an exhibition fight, as opposed to an exhibition match, wherein the wrestling titles are actually at stake, or so it reads in the script.  And K-Fed technically won, but only after Mr. Cena‘s nemesis, Oomaga (ph), swooped in like a black bird out of nightmares and knocked him out. 

Sweet revenge was in the works however.  Mr. Federline acted as the guest commentator for another Cena match.  The champ then picked him up and slammed him onto the canvas.  K-Fed was a good sport, even though the crowd jeered at him.  At least they didn‘t have to hear him sing. 

Perhaps the day of wine and roses are over for Mini Me. Vern Troyer has reportedly checked out of rehab.  The actor known for his role on the Austin Powers movies had reportedly entered a rehabilitation clinic in Kalamazoo, Michigan last November.  He was suffering from alcohol addiction and detox for two days.  Therapy followed and now Mr. Troyer will continue with out patient treatment.  We wish him well on his new found sobriety, but can‘t help but wonder, at what juncture did he participate in this commercial adventure? 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VURN TROYER, MINI ME:  (SINGING)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, a special comment, the country is adamant, the advice virtually a consensus, yet the president reportedly wants us to sacrifice more of our countrymen in Iraq.  But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for worst person in the world. 

Our first bronze of the year to Nancy Dire (ph) in Indianapolis, who was been arrested for child neglect.  She told police she did not notice that her 3-year-old boy had slipped out of the apartment, and therefore, she had no idea that the toddler, wearing only a diaper, was wandering around in the high speed traffic lanes of Interstate 495.  Miraculously, the boy was unharmed after half a dozen cars swerved to avoid him.  And one motorist got out to save the kid.  Police say mom‘s reaction to police was, quote, oh, he got out again? 

The runner up, Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode.  You already know about his letter to his constituents, in which he attacked newly elected congressman Keith Ellison, who is Muslim.  Having already preached religious hatred, Congressman Goode now penning an op-ed in “USA Today.”  Quote, I believe that if we do not stop illegal immigration totally, reduce legal immigration and end diversity visa‘s, we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to infiltration by those who want to mold the United States into their image of their religion.  Mr. Ellison is from this country sir. 

But tonight‘s winner, when our leaders act like that, who can be surprised when our citizens act like this.  Craig Barker of Katie, Texas, he‘s upset that an Islamic mosque is being built on the land adjacent to his, and that the new owners asked him to remove his cattle from their land, so he is protesting the new neighbors by holding pig races to offend their Muslim sensibilities.  Craig Barker‘s new neighbors are said to be indifferent about the protests.  Mr. Barker, a note for you, Muslims do not hate pigs, they just don‘t eat pigs.  If you are going to be a bigot, please, be an informed bigot. 

Craig Barker of Katie, Texas, today‘s worst person in the world. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Finally tonight, a special comment about sacrifice.  If in your presence an individual tried to sacrifice an American servicemen or women, would you intervene?  Would you at least protest?  What if he had already sacrificed over 3,003 of them.  What if he had already sacrificed 3,003 of them and was then to announce his intention to sacrifice hundreds, maybe thousands more. 

This is where stand tonight with the BBC report of President Bush‘s, quote, new Iraq strategy, unquote, and his impending speech to the nation, which it quotes a senior American official as saying will be about troop increases and sacrifice.  The president has delayed, doddled, deferred for the month since the release of the Iraq Study Group.  He has seemingly heard out everybody and listened to none of them. 

If the BBC is right, and we can only pray it is not, he has settled on the only solution all the true experts agree cannot possibly work, more American personnel in Iraq, not as trainers for Iraqi troops, but as part of some flabby, ill-defined plan for sacrifice.  Sacrifice, more American servicemen and women will have their lives risked.  More American servicemen and women will have their lives ended.  More American families will have to bear the unbearable and rationalize the unforgivable. 

Sacrifice, sacrifice now, sacrifice tomorrow, sacrifice forever.  And more Americans, more even than the two thirds who already believe we need fewer troops in Iraq and not more, will have to conclude this president does not have any idea what he is doing, and that other Americans will have to die for that reason.  It must now be branded as propaganda, for even the president cannot truly feel that very many people still believe him to be competent in this area, let alone the decider. 

But from our impeccable reporter at the Pentagon, Jim Miklaszewski tonight, comes confirmation of something called surge and accelerate, as many as 20,000 additional troops for political purposes.  This in line with what we had previously heard, that this will be proclaimed a short-term measure, for the stated purpose of increasing security in and around Baghdad and giving an Iraqi government a chance to establish some kind of order.  This is palpable nonsense, Mr. Bush.  If this is your intention, if the centerpiece of your announcement next week will be sacrifice, sacrifice your intention, not more American lives.  As Senator Biden of Delaware has pointed out, the new troops might improve the ratio our forces face relative to those living in Baghdad, friend and foe, from 200 to one, to just 100-one, sacrifice?  No, drop in a bucket. 

The additional men and women you have sentenced to go there, sir, will serve only as targets.  They will not be there short-term, Mr. Bush.  For many it will mean a year or more in death‘s shadow.  This is not temporary, Mr. Bush, for the Americans who will die because of you, it will be as permanent as it gets.  The various rationales for what Mr. Bush will reportedly rechristen sacrifice, constitute a very thin gruel indeed.  The former labor secretary, Robert Reich, says Senator McCain told him that the surge would help the morale of the troops already in Iraq.  If Mr. McCain truly said that and truly believes it, he has either forgotten completely his own experience in Vietnam or he is unaware of the recent “Military Times” poll, indicating only 38 percent of our active military want to see more troops sent to Iraq.  All that or Mr. McCain has departed from reality. 

Then there is the argument that to take any steps toward reducing numbers would show weakness to the enemies in Iraq or to the terrorists around the world.  This simplistic logic ignores the inescapable fact that we have already showed weakness to the enemy and to the terrorists.  We have shown them that we will let out own people be killed for no good reason.  We have now shown them that we will continue to do so.  We have shown them our stupidity. 

Mr. Bush, your judgment about Iraq, and now about sacrifice, is at variance with your peoples to the point of delusion.  Your most respected generals see no value in a surge.  They could not possibly see it in this madness of sacrifice.  The Iraq Study Group told you it would be a mistake.  Perhaps dozens more have told you it would be a mistake, and you threw their wisdom back, until you finally heard what you wanted to here, like some child drawing straws, and then saying, best two out of three, best three out of five, 100th one counts. 

Your citizens, the people for whom you work, have told you they do not want this, and moreover, they do not want you to do this.  Yet, once again sir, you have ignored all of us.  Mr. Bush, you do not own this country. 

To those Republicans who have not broken free from the slavery of partisanship, those bonded still to this president, and to this administration, and now bonded to this sacrifice, proceed at your own peril.  John McCain may still hear the applause of small crowds.  He has some how inured himself to the hypocrisy and the tragedy of a man who considers himself the ultimate realist now courting the votes of those who support a government that tells visitors to the Grand Canyon that the Grand Canyon was created by the great flood. 

That Mr. McCain is selling himself off to the Irrational right, parcel by parcel, like some great land owner facing bankruptcy.  It seems to be obvious to everybody but himself, or maybe it is obvious to him and he no longer cares.  But to the rest of you in the Republican party, we need you to speak up right now in defense of your country‘s most precious assets, the lives of its citizens who are in harm‘s way.  If you do not, you are not serving this nation‘s interests nor your own indeed.  Last November should have told you this.  The opening of the new Congress, tomorrow and Thursday, should tell you this again. 

Next time, those missing Republicans on Capitol Hill will be you.  And to the Democrats, now yoked to the helm of this sinking ship, you proceed at your own peril as well.  President Bush may not be very good at reality, but he and Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rove are still gifted at letting American troops be killed and then turning their deaths to their own political advantage.  The equation is simple, the country does not want more troops in Iraq; it wants fewer.  Go and make it happen, or go and look for other work. 

Yet you Democrats must assume that even if you take the most obvious of courses now, and you cut off funding, Mr. Bush will ignore you for as long as possible, or will find the money elsewhere, or spend more money meant to protect the troops and repurpose it to keep as many troops there as long as he can keep them there, because that‘s what this is all about, is it not Mr. Bush?  That‘s what this sacrifice has been for, to continue this senseless war. 

You have dressed it up in the clothing, first of a hunt for weapons of mass destruction, then of liberation, then of regional imperative, then of oil prices, and now on these new terms of sacrifice.  It‘s like a damn game of color forms, isn‘t it sir?  This senseless, endless war, but it‘s not been senseless in two ways, at least, it has succeeded, Mr. Bush, has it not, in enabling you to deaden the collective mind of this country to the pointlessness of endless war against the wrong people, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.  It has gotten many of us used to the idea, the virtual white noise of conflict far away, of the deaths of young Americans, a vague sacrifice for some fluid cause, too complicated to be interpreted, accept in the terms of the important sounded, but ultimately meaningless phrase, the war on terror. 

And the war in Iraq‘s second accomplishment, your second accomplishment sir, is to take money out of the pockets of every American, even out of the pockets of the dead soldiers on the battlefield and their families, and to have given that money to the war profiteers.  Because if you sell the army 1,000 humvees, you can‘t sell them anymore until the first thousand have been destroyed, can you.  The servicemen and women are ancillary to the equation.  This is about the planned obsolescence of ordinance, isn‘t it Mr. Bush.  And the building of detention centers, and the design of a 125 million dollar court room complex at Gitmo, complete with restaurants.  At least the war profiteers have made their money, sir, and we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. 

You have insisted, Mr. Bush, that we must not lose in Iraq, that if we don‘t fight them there, we will fight them here, as if the corollary was somehow that if by fighting them there, we will not have to fight them here.  And yet you have remade our country, and not remade it for the good, on the premise that we need to be ready to fight them here any way and always.  In point of fact, even if the civil war in Iraq somehow ended tomorrow and the risk to Americans there ended with it, we would have already suffered a defeat, not fatal, not world changing, not but for the lives lost of enduring consequence.

But this country has already lost in Iraq, sir.  Your policy in Iraq has already had its crushing impact on our safety here.  You have already fomented new terrorism and new terrorists.  You have already stoked paranoia.  You have already pitted Americans, one against the other.  We will have to live with it.  We will have to live with what of the fabric of our nation you have already sacrificed.  The only object still admissible in this debate is the quickest and safest exit for our people there.  But you, and soon Mr. Bush it will be you and you alone, still insist otherwise. 

And our sons and daughters and fathers and mothers will be sacrificed there, tonight sir, so that you can say you did not lose in Iraq.  Our policy in Iraq has been criticized for being indescribable, for being inscrutable, for being ineffable, but it is all too easily understood now.  First, we sent Americans to their deaths for your lie, Mr. Bush.  Now we are sending them to their deaths for your ego.  If what is reported is true, if your decision is made and the sacrifice is ordered, take a page instead from the man at whose funeral you so eloquently spoke this morning, Gerald Ford.  Put pragmatism and the healing of a nation ahead of some kind of misguided vision, atone, sacrifice, Mr. Bush? 

No sir, this is not sacrifice.  This has now become human sacrifice. 

And it must stop.  And you can stop it.  Next week, make us all look wrong. 

Our meaningless sacrifice in Iraq must stop and you, sir, must stop it. 

From Washington, I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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