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    07 September 2007

    Republicans: Don't listen to Gen. Petraeus!

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    I agree, we should give his testimony and the accompanying White house report on the escalation as much credit as the various other reports out currently.

    But this is really getting confusing for the pro-war crowd. Petraeus is offering the possibility of a symbolic withdrawal (which will never happen) early next year.
    Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, has told President Bush that he wants to maintain heightened troop levels in Iraq well into next year to reduce the risk of military setbacks, but could accept the pullback of roughly 4,000 troops beginning in January, in part to assuage critics in Congress, according to senior administration and military officials.

    The response of the Republican leadership in Congress to the Generals offer?

    House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio: "It should be off the table."

    So even if the top General suggests it, it should not be considered. This, to Republicans, is purely political (as well as heartless, dangerous and acting contrary to the needs of the troops). If our Generals suggest something that the Democrats and the American public have been asking (and voting) for and is even based on sober military judgment, it shouldn't happen because it makes the Republicans look bad.

    That's a great way the run foreign policy and it's a trend that has been evident throughout our experience in Iraq: Trust the generals until they dissent and replace them... repeat if necessary.

    I fear what these Republicans will do once we are out of troops in about a years time...

    Posted by Geoff

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    06 September 2007

    The UBL video and US Politics

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    If your browser is open right now then you likely have at least one headline on your homepage or favorite website hinting at an alleged video from the still free Usama bin Laden (UBL). This video, if it comes out, will coincide with the 6th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on NY, DC and a failed attack which ended in a deadly plane crash in rural PA. Here are some thoughts on the rational of this event--if it does indeed happen, but still relevant if it doesn't--from the point of view of a man like UBL and his al Qaeda movement at two levels.
    + This is at one level, a propaganda ploy for the global jihadist movement.

    + For western audiences it has a very different motive. UBL benefits from our occupation of Iraq despite the lack of popularity of al Qaeda in Iraq. Our continued presence there validates his statements and fills his ranks. Therefore UBL's intent is to maintain the status quo there (much like US war supporters, but for different reasons). UBL knows how politics work in America and that his face on TV will cause the various noise machines to begin calling for a continued, unconditional presence in Iraq. He knows the current debate that is building steam in DC and nationwide regards the future of our presence there. He "knows" God gave him the gift of our occupation of Iraq for his continued war on humanity. This presence of ours in Iraq is supposedly to fight UBLs al Qaeda, at least partially. So UBL benefits from this in numerous ways: He keeps a major recruiting tool operational. He keeps targets close by and an active training ground functioning. He keeps his rational and rhetoric valid. And all the while, UBL keeps safe in Afghanistan, Pakistan or wherever he is while the American eye (and military might) focuses on Iraq and the morass we're struggling with presently.

    And if this video doesn't surface, the facts still remain.

    You can thank the 'stay the course' crowd for that.

    Posted by Geoff

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    Turning military statements into incorrect political rhetoric

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    NPRs Guy Raz woke we up this morning with this sobering piece of reporting. I'd highly recommend readers listen to or read this and consider it as we draw closer to Bush's report and Petraeus and Crocker's testimony on the "progress" of Bush's escalation in Iraq.

    Here's a sample:
    Here's a few statistics that military officials have cited in the past few days.

    From Gen. Richard Sherlock: "Overall violence in Iraq has continued to decline and is at the lowest level since June 2006."

    From Gen. Kevin Bergner: "On a national level, sectarian deaths are about half of what they where in December of 2006."

    And from Gen. Ray Odierno: "Total attacks are on a monthlong decline and are at their lowest levels since August of 2006."

    And here's how those statistic translate into political rhetoric.

    From South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham: "Well, the surge has worked; it's provided a level of security I haven't seen."

    And from President Bush: "Anbar is a huge province. It was written off as lost. It is now one of the safest places in Iraq."

    But other numbers tell a different story.

    This year, Anbar is actually the second-deadliest place for U.S. troops in Iraq. Baghdad is the deadliest.

    See how that works, watch for it... Republicans are desperate.
    (This was post 1,001 !!)

    Posted by Geoff

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    05 September 2007

    Moving Goal Posts: The Surge to Anywhere

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    The White House noise machine and their military puppets are really putting the moves on now. As Kevin Drum points out, you can tell when a PR campaign is in process by the "sudden appearance of a raft of articles all telling a remarkably similar story." But the progress we hear is troubling. There's been no political progress at a national level, as we were promised. The security situation is fractionally better and not facilitating reconciliation but working against it. Senior counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus Dave Kilcullen admitted as much in one of the first "news" stories of the current PR campaign:
    The other implication is that, to be perfectly honest, the pattern we are seeing runs somewhat counter to what we expected in the “surge”, and therefore lies well outside the “benchmarks”. The original concept was that we (the Coalition and the Iraqi government) would create security, which would in turn create space for a “grand bargain” at the national level. Instead, we are seeing the exact opposite: a series of local political deals has displaced extremists, resulting in a major improvement in security at the local level, and the national government is jumping on board with the program. Instead of coalition-led top-down reconciliation, this is Iraqi-led, bottom-up, based on civil society rather than national politics. And oddly enough, it seems to be working so far. This does not necessarily invalidate the “surge” strategy: we are indeed seeing improved security and political progress, but at the local not national level. This was not what we expected, and probably will cut little ice with domestic opponents of the strategy, but the improvement in daily lives of Iraqis and willingness to talk rather than fight is a substantial real-world improvement nonetheless.

    Boy that's a dangerous stretch and indicative of failed policy. You take a plan and operationalize it. It goes awry and since it looks good you go with it?

    A CIA hand involved in Afghanistan in the 80's when the mujahideen (now the Taliban and al Qaeda) pushed out the Soviet Union was interviewed recently and reflected on that “grand bargain”
    When I was in Pakistan I asked an Army commander if we could get the Afghan tribes to do something and he said, “We can usually get the Afghans to do something that they want to do.” In Afghanistan, the Soviets made thousands of deals with the tribes, but you don’t buy them–you rent them. These guys change sides all the time. It’s the same thing [in Iraq]. Their needs and goals are completely unrelated to our vision of the world. The sheiks [in Iraq] figure that their turf is threatened by Al Qaeda in Iraq and they’re happy to help go after them, especially when the U.S. is doing the heavy lifting. But there will be a piper that needs to be paid. You don’t have to go much beyond T.E. Lawrence to see how this is likely to play out.

    So there you have one track, it's going in the opposite direction than intended.

    Then there's the violence. The numbers cited by war supporters and those individuals invested in the perception of success in this escalation talk of facts but offer no supporting evidence. Meanwhile, independent analysis from the AP, McClatchy, McClatchy again, and the apolitical GAO come to opposite conclusions, with numbers. Furthermore, the Center for Strategic and International Studies warns that data being used on civilian violence is unreliable and excludes most acts affecting sectarian and ethnic cleansing and does not include Shi’a on Shi’a violence in the South or Sunni on Sunni violence in the Sunni Triangle. The most independent means of statistic gathering is now suppressed by the Iraqi Ministry of Health. Anything produced by this administration, or their selected generals and analysts should be rejected due to large collections of counter evidence and a history of the Bush administration, the Iraqi Government and Gen. Petraeus fudging the facts for political ends.

    The question is simple:
    I would like to see the data from the pro-war side that demonstrates that progress is actually happening. I don't want to hear about new hope in the streets, or markets safe enough for senators to walk through with a brigade of soldiers with them. I want to hear metrics that indicate Iraq is moving towards a peaceful stable state. Are there any?

    America! There comes a time when mere happy-talk is not enough to continue an obvious flawed policy. Granted the tactics being used are a welcome improvement to the last 4 years of mismanagement and cockeyed policy. It's just too late. We've seen a slight increase on some very basic benchmarks with 30,000 extra troops. In a perfect world we might see more improvements with more troops and more time. However, there are none of either. Those troops that are there are going to be headed home very soon. By this time next year we'll be forced to begin a draw down. Rather than chase around an elusive and unclear end, we should be focusing on what to do once we begin to leave in order to salvage what we have accomplished. A prudent way to do this is to first accept it. not defeat but the reality of the situation. Then begin to implement a procedure to orderly redeploy our troops and redefine the mission they're pursuing. Unfortunately we will be in Iraq for a long time. Whether we are there chasing reasonable ends or being overrun from all sides is up to the dead-enders on the right and their allies in Washington, DC.

    Posted by Geoff

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    04 September 2007

    The Bush White House Approved Disbanding Iraqi Army

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    NY Times:
    A previously undisclosed exchange of letters shows that President Bush was told in advance by his top Iraq envoy in May 2003 of a plan to "dissolve Saddam’s military and intelligence structures," a plan that the envoy, L. Paul Bremer, said referred to dismantling the Iraqi Army.

    Mr. Bremer provided the letters to The New York Times on Monday after reading that Mr. Bush was quoted in a new book as saying that American policy had been "to keep the army intact" but that it "didn't happen."

    Like anyone believes that any decision this large would have been left merely to an envoy. The only thing that Bush could have said that might save face and appear honest is that Rumsfeld or Cheney kept it from him or were totally in charge at the time. He said neither and tried to shift blame on Bremer. That has now been debunked.

    Now for the competency of these "leaders" who so gleefully lead us into the worst foreign policy fiasco since Vietnam if not ever. Buried in the above article comes this quote from Bremer.
    “I might add that it was not a controversial decision,” Mr. Bremer said. “The Iraqi Army had disappeared and the only question was whether you were going to recall the army. Recalling the army would have had very practical difficulties, and it would have political consequences. The army had been the main instrument of repression under Saddam Hussein. I would go on to argue that it was the right decision. I’m not second-guessing it.”

    Surely a man who became envoy to Iraq would know that there were several armies in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. There was Saddam's army the Republican Guard and a regular army made of conscripts; usually Shiite. A large portion of the overall army was conscripted, but the Republican Guard provided the repression. Not understanding the opportunity that was presented to the US with the regular Iraqi army after May '03 is a mistake that manifests itself in the chaos in Iraq today. The same people who missed this are the ones who say they will lead us to salvation in Iraq.

    Don't hold your breath...

    Posted by Geoff

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    03 September 2007

    The Surge: Decoding the happy-talk and PR stunts

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    President Bush said this earlier today in his super top-secret visit to Iraq (ahhh... progress):
    "General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker tell me if the kind of success we are now seeing continues, it is possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces," he said.

    What he really means is that he's too cowardly to reassess the situation strategically and will keep the escalation going until it can't physically be sustained without more unprecedented adjustments. So come August '08 we're looking at one of three situations. One, our Congress will gather up the willpower and begin to confront the President. More likely, two, nothing will happen in Congress. The escalation will continue as it has for months now and there will be little to show for it. As are troop levels begin to fall by the weight of their own gravity, the interests in Iraq will go back to their slightly dormant cycles. Finally three, we could reassess the situation noting the fact that we've rid Iraq of a dictator, established that they have no WMD and planted seeds of democracy in the country (perverted as they might be). Then strategically reset our occupation to one of counterterrorism and regional security leaving the Iraqi power centers room to adjust to their new government without the US military being a crutch. Accompany that with a force to protect the Kurds in the north, keep Turkey at bay, control Kurdish irredentist terrorism emanating from Kurdistan, and check Iranian influence in the northern portion of Iraq. One of these paths is logical (#3) so it won't see the light of day. The rest are just plain bad. However one will allow the White House to save face until we elect a new president. That is the road Bush wants. He claims to be loyal, he claims to support the troops. He is doing neither here, both his party and his military will suffer as a result of his intransigence.

    He visited al Anbar to highlight the superficial success happening there against al Qaeda in Iraq. The White House is so desperate to stretch this war out, they'll even hijack the success of others as there own:
    That assertion is part of Bush's push to sell Anbar as a success story and to hold it up to his congressional critics as a reason why the troop buildup should not be cut short.

    In truth, the progress in Anbar was initiated by the Iraqis themselves, a point Gates himself made, saying the Sunni tribes decided to fight and retake control from al-Qaida many months before Bush decided to send an extra 4,000 Marines to Anbar as part of his troop buildup.

    In any regard, this "success" is the fruit of a plan that works against the initial strategic vision of the escalation and one that borders on hypocrisy.

    As last months NIE stated:
    Such initiatives, if not fully exploited by the Iraqi government, could over time also shift greater power to the regions, undermine efforts to impose central authority, and reinvigorate armed opposition to the Baghdad government

    Posted by Geoff

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    02 September 2007

    Has Mubarak died?

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    Maybe, maybe not. It's irrelevant to this post, but the reaction "reflects the current state of political polarization" in Egypt. Mubarak is nearly into his 80s and holds a place on a long list of MENA dictators and/or monarchs that will vacate their offices soon. In this post, linked above, Marc Lynch looks at the phenomena of rumor in a state as divided and diverse as Egypt.

    Lynch ends with:
    If Hosni Mubarak really has been incapacitated then we're going to be looking at an extremely tense transitional period, with the 'center' disappearing at the height of multiple political struggles. Even if he hasn't, the wildfire spread of the rumor and the tenor of the discussions suggest tremendous uncertainty about Egypt's political future.

    Posted by Geoff

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