Bush, Petraeus betray us

The game of bait-and-switch goes on, without anyone seeming to notice. Following the Congressional testimony of his commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, Bush has reportedly embraced his recommendation that the US withdraw 30,000 troops—by next summer. Bizarrely, this is being portrayed as a de-escalation—even though it will leave 130,000 troops in Iraq. In other words, around the same as before the “surge.” Also around the same as in May 2003 when Bush declared an end to “major combat operations”—at which time troop levels were ostensibly slated to be reduced by 100,000 over the next four months. (They now stand at 168,000.)

The testimony of US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker was redolent of the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” that the LBJ administration kept seeing in Vietnam. “A secure, stable, democratic Iraq at peace with its neighbors is, in my view, attainable,” he said. “As we look ahead, we must acknowledge that 2006 was a bad year in Iraq. The country came close to unraveling politically, economically, and in security terms. 2007 has brought some improvements.” Note disingenuous use of the past tense, as if Iraq were not still in the process of “unraveling.” (The Scotsman, Sept. 12; Salt Lake Tribune, Sept. 10)

See our last posts on Iraq and the politics of withdrawal/escalation.

  1. What Westmoreland said
    Deja vu, anyone? From the book America in Vietnam, by John Guilmartin:

    In November [1967], General Westmoreland embarked on a whirlwind tour of the U.S. to testify before Congress and drum up support for the Johnson Administration. “With 1968,” he said, speaking before the National Press Club in Washington, “a new phase is starting .. we have reached an important point where the end begins to come into view.” In a televised news conference, he used the phrase “light at the end of the tunnel” to describe improved US fortunes, repeating almost word- for-word a prognostication made by French General Henri Navarre in May of 1953.

    They never learn, do they?

  2. Petraeus, Condy invoke Iran threat
    Petraeus’ testimony also made an implicit case for intervention against Iran.

    In his testimony, he accused Iran of fighting a “proxy war” in Iraq through the covert operations unit of the Revolutionary Guards—the Quds force.

    A statement from Iran’s foreign ministry denied the charge, but added: “This report will not save the United States from the Iraqi quagmire.”

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice followed up on remarks two days later, telling NBC that Iraq “has very troublesome neighbours… And I would note that President Ahmadinejad said if the United States leaves Iraq, Iran is prepared to fill the vacuum. That is what is at stake here.”

    Rice said that together with the allies in the “war on terror,” the United States would “resist both terrorism and Iranian aggression” in Iraq. (AFP, Sept. 12)

    We hate to tell you Condy, but Iran has already filled the vacuum. Southern Iraq has already become an Iranian satellite state since the British withdrawal from Basra. This is the ultimate irony of the whole Bush adventure. US policy in the Persian Gulf for nearly a generation (including under Bush pere) was predicated on supporting Saddam to keep the Iranians at bay. Baby Bush has undone this in one fell swoop. They have created the circumstances for an extension of Iranian power beyond the Shatt al-Arab.

  3. MoveOn.org beat us to the punch
    We thought we had come up with that Petraeus-betray us line, but MoveOn.org used it in a New York Times ad yesterday—prompting an anrgy backlash frm Rudy Giuliani. (NYT, Sept. 14)

  4. New Republican Party Link: MoveOn.org!
    From the non-partisan quasi-satirical blog Mayor Mike [Bloomberg] for President:

    Mayor Mike — If MoveOn.org Calls to Offer You Their Help, HANG UP THE TELEPHONE!
    Three weeks ago MMFP advised George Soros to stop funding MoveOn.org. We even emailed him our brief comment which is located to the right of this column.

    Well George, your MoveOn Morons have really done it now. We here at MMFP think it would be safe to say that MoveOn’s New York Times ad attacking General David Petraeus has helped GW Bush and the Republican Party more than all those “Swift Boat Vets” ads did in the last election. Who’s side are these MoveOn assholes on? I normally refrain from expletives on this site however in this instance it’s well-deserved.

    Now it turns out that even the NY Times gave MoveOn.org a big discount on the ad, half price. What’s up with that? Whomever made this decision at the Times should be fired. MoveOn has now given the Republican right a hit on the NY Time’s credibility unequaled by any right-wing pundit on Fox News or WABC Radio.

    Mr. Soros, giving money to those stupid jerks at MoveOn.org who created the Petraeus ad has done more damage to the anti-war movement, the Democratic Party, and the NY Times than any right-wing Republican Party attack ad in American history.

    Meanwhile, MMFP informs us that FreedomsWatch.org is going to be the Republicans’ answer to MoveOn.org…

    WW4R asks: Don’t Republicans believe in apostrophes?

  5. Gen. Petraeus: war criminal?
    From AFP, Sept. 13:

    The two days of congressional hearings were interrupted by screams from activists, including from the Code Pink feminist group, accusing Petraeus of being a “war criminal” who was being less than honest with the US public.

    As we’ve noted, some folks think such stunts are back-firing.

    What do you think?

    See our last post on the politics of the anti-war movement.

    1. Idiots
      The MoveOn ad was a spectacularly bad move that does lead to the suspicion that Rove has a highly place mole in the organization. Whether you can make the case that the books are being cooked during the report (wouldn’t that be a shock) ceases to be an issue when you hand your enemies the news cycle for the entire month. The play on words, no problem as a blog posting, nullifies your argument and then some in the New York Times.

      Calling Petraeus a war criminal for lying to the US public doesn’t make sense – or is it all about us, our brave soldiers and our blood and treasure, with the displaced and dead of Iraq bit players. Why cheapen the phrase ‘war criminal’. It’s like screaming ‘fascist’ at some working class cop who basically can’t let you break a Starbucks window. There may be war crimes here, but be an adult. Lying to Senators isn’t a ‘war crime’. It may be a crime (unless you’re Dr Rice), but it’s not a war crime.

      Getting ejected from the committee room serves no point except to paint anyone left of Hillary as a fringe adolescent. With one ad buy MoveOn has damaged the progressives more than the 9/11 truth clowns. Soros could do much better with his money, for instance here or here.

      1. Hold the phone, JG…
        Lying to Congress (and the American public) doesn’t make Petraeus a war criminal, but stuff like this and this and this assuredly does. And the lying does warrant the “betray us” line. If we always feel we have to pull our punches for fear of Republican backlash, we will always betray our responsibility to speak truth to power.

        As for Daddy Soros—well, WW4R could certainly use his bucks. But I fear it would taint us as pawns of his globalist agenda. If he ever really offered us money, it would be a genuine dilemma whether to accept it—alas, one we will likely never be faced with…

        1. Words matter
          If there are war crimes involved, then charge him with war crimes and don’t cheapen the phrase grandstanding. Do you see the difference between speaking truth to power and using a childish rhyme in an expensive ad? Could the point have been made in a more adult fashion? Or is it necessary to limit your target audience to 10 percent of the country to maintain the moral high ground?

          Cooking the books on a military report does not stand up to the classic definition of ‘betrayal’. Treason is a pretty rough charge in print. So if truth about real betrayal comes out what word do you use?

          1. Not getting it, JG
            Look, I aired the criticisms of MoveOn to get the debate out in the open. So thanks for weighing in. But in the interests of debate, let me present the other side…

            When Code Pink (not MoveOn) accused him of being a war criminal, they were presumably referring to his war crimes (bombing and strafing civilian areas, sweeps of the populace, arming ethnic cleansers like the late Sheikh al-Rishawi, etc.), not his lying.

            Lying to the American people may not fit the technical definition of treason, but yes it does fit the classic definition of betrayal! When Westmoreland cooked the books by inflating Viet Cong casualties (as is now pretty universally acknowledged), that did not constitute betrayal? Petraeus’ similar deflation of sectarian violence casualties does not constitute betrayal? Didn’t someone sing back at the height of the Vietnam nightmare something about not getting fooled again?

            Some annotation will follow…

            1. GAO contradicts Petraeus
              Spencer Ackerman for Muckraker.com, Sept. 10:

              Will We See How Petraeus Defines “Sectarian Violence”?

              One thing to watch for during General Petraeus’ testimony today and tomorrow: Will he continue to insist on keeping classified his command’s methodology for determining which civilian attacks count as sectarian violence?

              Petraeus has made numerous assertions that sectarian violence has fallen dramatically, but so far, he hasn’t explained how he’s derived the basis for the claim. But on Friday, the head of the Government Accountability Office, David Walker, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Petraeus’ methodology isn’t something agencies throughout the government have confidence in.

              Much to the chagrin of the Pentagon, the report released by Walker’s GAO last week found that average daily attacks against civilians had remained flat during the lifetime of the surge. Which of those attacks qualified as sectarian violence? GAO found it wasn’t clear that, contra Petraeus, sectarian attacks were on the decline, since it — and other agencies within the government — found the methodology for such a calculation dubious. According to the Washington Post, shooting someone in the back of the head is a sign of sectarian violence to Petraeus, but a frontal shot isn’t…

              [H]ere’s what Walker told Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) (the classified annex of the GAO report contains much more about Petraeus’ methodology):

              First, [Petraeus’] data will show that sectarian violence is going down in recent months. He will show that. Secondly…we cannot get comfortable with the methodology that’s used to determine of total violence, which is sectarian and which is nonsectarian-related. It’s extremely difficult to do that. I mean, you know, people don’t necessarily leave calling cards… We’re not comfortable with the methodology. And please read the classified report, because it’s not just our view.

              The GAO report, in draft form, said that entire agencies of the U.S. government disagreed with Petraeus’ methodology on sectarian violence. Evidently, the Pentagon, and perhaps MNF-I [Multinational Force-Iraq], leaned on the GAO to shunt that statement into a classified annex. But that’s exactly what Walker confirmed on Friday…

              Keep an eye on this. If Petraeus’ command’s methodology is sound, why not explain it, and lay the controversy to rest?

            2. From Saigon to Baghdad
              A very prescient opinion piece by Marshall Windmiller, from the San Francisco Bay Guardian, May 11-17, 2005:

              From Saigon to Baghdad
              Everybody knows history never repeats itself exactly. For a country like the United States, which is not enamored with the study of history, it may be futile to draw historical analogies, especially those relating to Vietnam.

              But there is one so significant and so timely that our government might avoid critical errors by studying it. It relates to the extraordinary intelligence failure prior to the Vietcong’s Tet offensive, and the confusion and politicization in the intelligence community in Washington, D.C., today.

              In January 1966 the official U.S. intelligence estimate of the Vietcong order of battle was that there were 270,000 Vietcong guerrillas in South Vietnam. At the same time there had been approximately 50,000 to 150,000 Vietcong deserters, as well as 150,000 casualties each year. If these figures were correct, there were more deserters and casualties than the total number of enemy troops. Yet the war continued. Who was still fighting? Something was wrong.

              In the Central Intelligence Agency, a young analyst named Sam Adams was assigned to study the Vietcong full time. After careful examination of numerous after-action reports and reports of enemy interrogations, Adams concluded that there were at least 200,000 more Vietcong fighters than were acknowledged in the U.S. assumptions. If Adams was right, the enemy force was at least twice as large as the U.S. assumed.

              But Adams was virtually ignored. He continued to study the evidence, and by December 1966 he had concluded that there were 600,000 enemy soldiers.

              There were conferences at which Adams presented his evidence, and at least one Pentagon analyst agreed with his conclusions. But the CIA and the military resisted changing the numbers, and so the official U.S. intelligence position was that our 350,000 soldiers were fighting only 270,000 Vietcong.

              Gen. William Westmoreland was the commander of all U.S. forces in Vietnam. He returned to Washington in November 1967 and said, “The enemy is running out of men.” Two months later, in January 1968, the Vietcong launched the Tet offensive with simultaneous attacks on numerous provincial capitals. U.S. troops repelled the attacks, but more than 10,000 of them died doing it. It was the greatest intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor.

              The war continued and became increasingly costly and unpopular with the U.S. public. On April 30, 1975, the last remaining U.S. personnel escaped by helicopter from the roof of the U.S. embassy.

              Seven years later, using Adams as a consultant, CBS News produced a documentary titled The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception. It was broadcast nationwide on Jan. 23, 1982. It charged that there was “a conspiracy at the highest levels of American military intelligence to suppress and alter critical intelligence on the enemy in the year leading up to the Tet offensive.”

              Westmoreland filed a $120 million libel suit against CBS. After a trial lasting four and a half months, which produced volumes of testimony about how the records were distorted, Westmoreland negotiated a face-saving statement from CBS and dropped his suit.

              This should force the U.S. press and the public to ask a lot of questions today. What is the Iraqi enemy order of battle? In Vietnam, Adams found there were categories of Vietcong fighters that weren’t being counted at all. One group the Vietcong called “assault youths,” weren’t even on the order of battle. Are we making similar omissions today? Does the Pentagon really know whom we are fighting and what their numbers are? Is there a Sam Adams somewhere in the intelligence community who is trying to do an honest job of figuring this out?

              Adams, a direct descendant of the great Adams family of colonial Massachusetts, died of a heart attack in October 1988 at the age of 55. George Tenet, the director of the CIA, told President George W. Bush that the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was an intelligence “slam dunk.” He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

            3. Preaching to the choir
              If you follow the talking heads you’ll see that left wing extremists like Joe Biden are basically echoing the line that is in, for instance, your other post RE: Democracy Now on the bombed sheik and the arming of the Sunni Civil war. If Code Pink is not referring to his cooking numbers for the Senate committee then their argument stands, but your question was whether those actions and the MoveOn ad were counter productive.

              I, and probably the majority of your readers, would agree with the above definition of betrayal and the ‘history doesn’t repeat but it does rhyme’ similarities to the Vietnam war. However, as proven time and again, most recently in 2004, this country can be governed with the consent of a loud right wing minority if the center can be obfuscated. My question: Would avoiding grandstanding grade C copy writing in the pages of the New York Times and instead spelling the arguments and facts out in a more, shall we say, adult manner be more productive in reaching the wavering center right? It would allow more discussion of what is going on and less rhetoric about the far left, and the New York Times, stabbing our troops in the back – which we will certainly be hearing enough about after Dien Bien Phu.

              Accurate, yes. Productive, no.