Monday, July 16, 2007

Bush Sets up Petraeus to Fall?

Excellent round up here at IraqSlogger;
Much of it copy/paste below, but there is more so visit Iraq Slogger. Hat tip, as it saves me some time getting all of these important developments blogged. Homefront and NY Times article cites military families voicing fatigue and coming out in opposition - no wonder with repeat stop-lossed and extended deployments to Iraq. Hmmm, so do you think President Bush is keeping with the pattern to set up General Patraeus to take the fall that rightfully belongs to this President and this Administration? And when Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki, says that Iraq is ready to take over security "any time" the Americans want to leave, who are we not to listen and do what he has invited us to do -- LEAVE!

IraqSlogger; US Papers Sun: Bush Sets up Petraeus to Fall?

Washington politics again dominate Sunday's news, but the flurry of news that we got last week is diminishing. Are the reporters getting tired? Thankfully, the Washington Post has a must-read on President George W. Bush's relationship with Gen. David Petraeus, and why that could cause trouble for the general down the line. And The New York Times provides some spin control on Bush's "gentleman's 'C'" he gave Iraq last week, and throws in a couple of stories from the home front.

Thomas E. Ricks of the Post has the must-read piece of the day -- especially if you're the top general in Iraq. He picks up on how often Bush mentions Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the American forces in Iraq, and muses that Bush is pushing some of the Iraq political burden onto the general, possibly setting him up as the fall-guy should the surge strategy fail. "Bush has mentioned Petraeus at least 150 times this year in his speeches, interviews and news conferences," Ricks writes, "often setting him up in opposition to members of Congress."

He mentions U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker far less frequently. At his latest news conference, Bush mentioned Petraeus 12 times and Crocker only twice. Marine Lt. Gen. Wallace Gregson (Ret.) told Ricks the president is sending the message that Iraqi is "purely a military problem." That's convenient, since that's the only part of the U.S.'s plan in Iraq that's showing any progress, according to the White House's own report (spin notwithstanding.) The political process on the part of the Iraqis, which is key to holding the country together and which is more important than the military aspect, has shown no progress.

Linking Petraeus and the surge strategy, which was Bush's idea, not the general's, will allow Bush to turn on Petraeus if Iraq falls apart -- as the administration has done with many former generals whenever it changes course, said Lawrence Korb, a former Pentagon official. Paul Wolfowitz publicly humiliated Gen. Eric Shinseki, who said Iraq would need more troops. Gen. George Casey, Petraeus predecessor, was blamed for not doing enough to secure the Iraqi people. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "was effectively fired last month." Ricks has great historical context on this issue, noting that while commander of the 101st Airborne Division during 2003, Petraeus often clashed with L. Paul Bremer over decisions that later turned out to be mistakes.

The Times' Jim Rutenberg picks apart last week's White House report on Iraq, and determines that, shockingly, the report "included several grim assessments of the Iraqi government that contrasted with the more upbeat public statements of President Bush, his top aides and public White House briefing materials in the past few weeks." In recent statements, both White House Spokesman Tony Snow and Bush said the Iraqis were making "progress" on the crucial oil law. But the report listed that benchmark as "unsatisfactory."

The picture is much the same regarding the reconciliation with members of the Ba'ath Party. The rule seems to be upbeat statements in the past, gloomy report card. A spokesman for the National Security Council, which oversaw the report's drafting, said the report was "a snapshot in time" and that developments appeared different from one moment to the next. Why have reports at all, then? If events in Iraq exhibit a quark-like uncertainty principle, there is no way to predict the future or learn from the past. Darn! The main point of this article, capped by the NSC's public throwing up of hands in the face of the inscrutableness of Iraq, deserved tougher treatment from Rutenberg. It would have been nice to see a more aggressive line of questioning: Why were upbeat statements made when the report said the opposite? Why can't the administration extrapolate?

David M. Herszenhorn writes for the Times on a proposal floating around the Senate to adopt the 79 policy recommendations from the Iraq Study Group as official U.S. policy. The story's a fine primer on the bill, drafted by Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., but it doesn't really give a sense of its chances for passage or who, exactly is for it. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., likes it for its "fresh start" while Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., doesn't, saying the bill has no teeth in it. Why is he so opposed? Are the domestic politics involved? The bill will come to a vote next week after all other proposals have been voted on, offering a last chance before the summer recess to pass something. After that, the next window is September.

The Post continues its series on four Congress members it profiled last week, recapping the week's news. (The members of Congress profiled are Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., and Rep Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.) There's nothing greatly revelatory in this, if you've been following the news, but it's a nice way to put faces on the debate in Iraq wracking the Senate and House. Snowe, in a long-anticipated move, broke with the White House, Boren and Isakson both are waiting until September and Schakowsky, party of the House Democratic whip team exulted in the turning of the tide in Congress on the war. "It's just over," she thought to herself. "And the question is: How soon can we do it?"

Ian Urbina of the Times turns his eyes to the nation's military families, where support for the war is showing signs of collapse. Polls among military families show support for the war down, and an increase in pessimism toward the outcome. More families are talking to their representatives and senators, asking them to help end the war. Recruiting efforts are suffering, mainly due to resistance from families. Longer and repeated deployments are eroding the support among the spouses. Even a few military wives on bases -- usually the least likely to speak out in opposition to their husband's efforts -- have joined an anti-war group that represents military families.

"I backed this war from the beginning," said Beth Pyritz, 27, who recently joined the group. "But I don't think I can look my kids in the eyes anymore, if my husband comes home in a wooden box, and tell them he died for a good reason." Urbina notes, however, that this is still a minority phenomenon. Many military families still support Bush, and dissent among the families was more widespread during the Vietnam War (the draft didn't help). But the dissent is real, and more soldiers are voting with their feet. In the 2006 fiscal year, 3,196 soldiers deserted, compared to 2,543 in FY2005 and 2,357 in FY2004. Since the beginning of the current fiscal year, which began in October, 871 soldiers have deserted.

Speaking of deserting, Michelle York of the Times writes of an Army medic who went AWOL after kind of losing it in Iraq and exhibiting serious PTSD symptoms. Spec. Eugene Cherry's was a high-profile case and was about to go to court-martial when last week the Army dropped the charges and gave him a general discharge. It's significant because guys who've been AWOL for as long as he has been -- he's been on the lam since fall 2005 -- usually get lengthy prison terms. The Army is realizing the toll Iraq is taking on its soldiers.


Megan Greenwell leads the Post's roundup of news from Baghdad with a press conference from Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki, who said that Iraq was ready to take over security "any time" the Americans want to leave. However, he added, it would be nice if the Americans provided more weapons and training, saying that's what the Iraqi forces need. (Which will take time, totally negating his claim that they can take over "any time.") Greenwell rightly recognizes the prime minister's remarks worthless and quickly moves on to what matters to the Iraqi people: the continuing deterioration in the security situation.

Eleven people died in three car bombings across Baghdad. There was more sectarian warfare, as 23 bodies were found in various neighborhoods, included four women. The victims had been tortured and shot in the head. Gunmen in Jebala killed eight Shi'ites, about four miles south of Baghdad. A U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded when an EFP exploded near their convoy in eastern Baghdad. A landmine killed another soldier, but Greenwell doesn't know where.

The military announced it had captured a "senior leader" of al Qaeda in Iraq, but apparently didn't name him. The alleged bad guy operated a network of cells in and around Mosul, the military said. And at least six insurgents were killed in a U.S. airstrike in Diyala province, Greenwell reports. She mentions that the military said, "the airstrike was necessary to protect women and children the gunmen were using as shields." Hm. Airstrikes seem a highly imprecise way to deal with what amounts to a hostage situation.


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