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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Iraq War, Episode Two

Let's jump right in with both feet. In an August 1st press briefing, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow took the following question:

Q Tony, the administration has been continually saying to wait until September, and to wait until the testimony of General Petraeus and saying that his testimony will be the clearest sense of how well the surge militarily is working and what should happen going forward. General Petraeus has also made, in the past, assessments about the quality of the Iraqi security forces, in Mosul specifically, and in the country generally, that proved to be overly optimistic by a considerable margin. Given that come September he's basically going to be asked to grade a plan that he, himself, crafted and has implemented, what confidence should the American people have that his assessment of his own work will be objective and honest?

MR. SNOW: You're impugning General Petraeus's ability to measure what's going on?

Gen. PetraeusSnow's an ex-FOX News guy, people -- and it shows. There's answering a question with a question and then there's answering a question with an accusation. Never mind that it's a damned good question -- how can the planner objectively grade his own plan? -- Snow's old FOX reflex jerked his knee and the accusation just popped out. The unnamed journalist (they're never named in White House transcripts) held his/her ground and finally got something approaching an answer. "General Petraeus is a serious guy who sees his mission not as a political mission, but, in fact, as somebody who reports facts," Snow told the journalist.

Turns out that's not so awfully true.

L.A. Times:

Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

I suppose this is just skipping a step in the Bush formula. Normally, you put together a blue ribbon panel or commission a report by respected experts, then just ignore the findings -- ask the 9/11 Commission, the Iraq Study Group, or Donna Shalala and Bob Dole, who's recommendations on improving conditions at the VA and Walter Reed are the latest to be shelved.

Usually, Bush uses these reports and panels for political cover. It can't be said enough that the Bush administration sees every problem as a public relations problem. It's not the recommendations that solves the problem, it's announcing that someone is going to solve the problem that solves the problem. These things usually go nowhere. The only purpose is to generate headlines.

So Petraeus' report is an unwelcome departure from the norm. Instead of ignoring the report as usual, the White House will just write it themselves. The best way to make sure that the report says what you want it to is to issue it straight from Cheney's desk.

As far as I can find, the White House hasn't denied that they'll write Petraeus' report, but that denial is sure to be in the pipe. The denial and the report will probably be written on the same letterhead.

At this point, we don't even have to wait for the report. The LA Times tells us that there will be a drawdown of troops -- my guess, based on other statements I've read, is that this is because the 'surge' can't be sustained. Progress will be the key word. We're always making progress. Of course, 'progress' is meaningless if there isn't some sort of goal you're progressing toward and, so far, no one's been able to explain what would count as a win. We're wandering around in circles out there in the desert and, because it's always on foot in front of the other, we're calling our directionless forward motion 'progress.'

Meanwhile, the carefully crafted government in Iraq is busy dissolving. Reuters reports:

[Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Mailiki] is facing a political crisis after the main Sunni Arab bloc, the Accordance Front, pulled its six ministers out of his Shi'ite-led national unity government saying he had ignored their demands.


Maliki's weak government promised much but has achieved little since it was formed fifteen months ago. Twenty ministers from three political blocs have either quit or stopped attending cabinet meetings.

Even if we manage to get everyone in the country to settle the hell down and stop shooting at each other, who do we hand this newly peaceful nation to? I keep saying it, but military progress is pointless without political progress. And political progress, at this point in time, is a pipedream.

In the end, Petraeus' report, which we're all supposed to be waiting so breathlessly for, is a marketing gimmick -- the cliffhanger that gets us to watch the same crappy show next week. There are no new writers, no new actors, and no new plot, just a continuation of the same bad script from last episode.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...


How dare a person doubt or wonder,
How dare a person question how,
For there was never made a blunder
By one whom fortune did endow
To be a realist.

Citizens and interlocutors
Down to a man, each one of them
With heads in clouds, were not straight-shooters
Who asked to know the stratagem
Of such a realist.

Realists never make mistakes,
But even improvising fare
Flawlessly, having what it takes,
Though seldom in the world was there
So grand a realist.

Petraeus knows, and shame on you
For asking did he yet consider,
For one so great in judgment true
Innately would not be a kidder,
Proudly a realist.

The lives of men depend upon
His single realistic judgment,
Because, when all is said and done,
Refusal thus to bend and budge meant
He is a realist,
Profoundly realist,
I really must insist!

--I.M. Small