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Thursday, September 13, 2007

"An Ass-Kissing Little Chickenshit"

"Progress" in Iraq is very shortlived. It has such a short shelflife that you need to dive on it to get any PR mileage out of it. Case in point, the big success in Anbar province against al Qaeda in Iraq.

White House, press briefing by Tony Snow, 9/12/07:

Q So essentially, if [Gen. Petraeus's recommendation] goes through, you're pulling out the troops that you had intended to pull out anyway, because they were temporary -- but you're leaving in at least 130,000. So how can you say there is so much success?

MR. SNOW: Again, Ed, you are assuming that there has been no success, that there have been no changes on the ground in Iraq since the surge began. When the surge began, Anbar was effectively in [the] control of al Qaeda. Diyala was a place where there was gathering strength with al Qaeda. Same thing with Ninevah. You had a number of provinces throughout Iraq where al Qaeda was gaining strength. Since then you have had a dramatic reversal in the fortunes of Anbar province to the extent that people who have been there have talked about how dramatic it is in terms of their perceptions.

Good thing he milked that right away, because the news from Anbar this morning was pretty bad.

Associated Press:

The most prominent figure in a revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida in Iraq was killed Thursday in an explosion near his home in Anbar province, Iraqi police said.

Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha was leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, an alliance of clans backing the Iraqi government and U.S. forces.

Abu Risha and two of his bodyguards were killed by a roadside bomb, said Col. Tareq Youssef, supervisor of Anbar police.

Couldn't have happened at a worse time. Bush is going to address the nation tonight and use all this success against al Qaeda in Anbar as an excuse to stay in Iraq until the sun goes cold. It's probably all written out all nice and pretty and everything.

If Bush mentions Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha at all, it'll probably be as a "recent events aside" sort of thing -- if you put aside the occassional assassination by roadside bomb, Anbar's doing great.

But that unnamed reporter (who I think was probably CNN's Ed Henry) brings up a good point. The big drawdown Bush will brag about tonight isn't a drawdown at all, it's a return to the previous status quo. If we look at a White House webpage titled, Iraq Fact Check: Responding to Key Myths, we find (emphasis mine) that "The current strategy in Iraq is a temporary surge in military, civilian, and diplomatic resources driven by the views of our commanders on the ground. The objective is to establish the conditions for a reduction in U.S. forces without risking catastrophe and wider regional conflict."

Kind of sounds like the idea is reduce troops levels below pre-escalation numbers doesn't it? If the surge was such a smashing success, wouldn't that mean we could actually pull down troop levels, as the White House promised, not just return them to normal?

The truth is that the surge is over because it can't be sustained. Troops rotations won't allow it -- we're out of reinforcements. So, since the surge was supposed to be the big turning point, a big turning point it is -- regardless of the realities on the ground. The Bush doctrine (not pre-emptive war, the other one) is that message continuity is supreme. A president never changes his mind, because presidents' predictions are never wrong. Just sitting in the Oval Office embues you with a divine flawlessness -- assuming you're a Republican. The surge worked because the president said it would. You can just stop thinking right there.

And, despite all the phony outrage over's "Betray Us" ad, Gen. David Petraeus is looking more and more like the guy who could deliver the news that Bush wanted you to hear. Despite all his talk of "listening to commanders on the ground," the president found a commander who would listen to him. There was no danger of Petraeus's report changing Bush's mind about anything.

Inter Press Service:

CENTCOM Commander Adm. William FallonIn sharp contrast to the lionisation of Gen. David Petraeus by members of the U.S. Congress during his testimony this week, Petraeus's superior, Admiral William Fallon, chief of the Central Command (CENTCOM), derided Petraeus as a sycophant during their first meeting in Baghdad last March, according to Pentagon sources familiar with reports of the meeting.

Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" and added, "I hate people like that", the sources say. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.

That extraordinarily contentious start of Fallon's mission to Baghdad led to more meetings marked by acute tension between the two commanders. Fallon went on develop his own alternative to Petraeus's recommendation for continued high levels of U.S. troops in Iraq during the summer.

As the chief of CENTCOM, Fallon is technically Petraeus's commander. But Petraeus is protected by the White House. Dressing him down is about all Fallon can do. Instead of cherry-picking facts themselves, the Bushies cherry-picked a fact finder. As a result, don't expect the White House to say much about Fallon's report. The IPS piece tells us, "The policy context of Fallon's extraordinarily abrasive treatment of his subordinate was Petraeus's agreement in February to serve as front man for the George W. Bush administration's effort to sell its policy of increasing U.S. troop strength in Iraq to Congress." They've got their "ass-kissing little chickenshit" and they're sticking with him and his report.

Bush listens to the commanders on the ground, all right. He just chooses which of those commanders he'll listen to. Those he chooses are those who say what he wants to hear.

This has been a Bush problem all along -- his preference for "yes men" and bona fide Bush-worshippers over independent thinkers. With failure after failure after failure, you'd think he'd have learned something by now, but there ya go.

So the surge is a huge success -- despite the fact it's not. The end of the escalation is a reduction in troop levels -- despite the fact it's not. Petreaus's report is an independent assessment -- despite the fact it's not.

And Bush is a freakin' genius -- who's every thought is perfect and beautiful and needs only an echo -- despite the fact he's not. Keep that in mind when he delivers his address tonight.


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Gray Kane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gray Kane said...

Good post.

The U.S. reclamation of the Anbar province had very little to do with the troop surge anyway. Abdul Sattar's Sunnis worked closely with al Qaeda until this Spring. Both his Anbar Sunnis and al Qaeda want a theocratic government. But when the jihadist Sunnis (al Qaeda affiliates) did things like cut off people's fingers for smoking, the Anbar Sunnis turned against al Qaeda.

In other words, Abdul Sattar's Sunnis were not fighting for a democratic Iraq. They merely were fighting against al Qaeda.

In the Spring, Abdul Sattar made a public statement saying that they would work with the U.S. "for now," but that they didn't know for how long since they had different objectives.

Bush merely marketed this random turn of events into an indication of success. I'm not sure how much of an indication of success it really was, though, if the Anbar Sunnis don't want a democratic Iraq. In a way, it was like our joining forces with bin Laden against the Russians during the 1970s: it was an indication that in the future we were going to get bit in the ass.

Anonymous said...

The Surge is obviously a smoke screen - a delaying tactic - part of our overall strategy to keep the whole place at a controllable simmer while we rebuild the oil infrastructure and pump westward. Think about this: The Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton a classified, no-bid contract to develop a plan to rebuild and export Iraqi Oil back in 2001. If you don’t believe me, check out this Fox News article from 2003:

Everyone agrees that controlling the violence in Iraq could be successfully accomplished if we dedicated enough resources to the job. If this was really Bush’s objective, wed have a done it years ago after the shrine bombing. We will continue to follow the path of least political expense, and only leave when our One True Goal is met: the secure and profitable flow of Iraqi oil westward. Every other excuse for staying is a damned lie.