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.
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 MoveOn.org'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:
In 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.
Technorati tags: politics; war; Iraq; William Fallon; propaganda; surge; White House; Anbar; David Petraeus may be an "ass-kissing litte chickenshit," but he's Bush's ass-kissing little chickenshit