Friday, September 14, 2007

The Petraeus Show

Once again Sidney Blumenthal over at sums it up better than most with an article entitled : How Bush is trying to save face in Iraq.

Here is his summantion at the end of the article:

If the surge has no connection to political goals in Iraq, it still has strategic political goals, just not in Iraq. The surge is the military means to Bush's political ends at home. "So now I'm an October–November man," Bush told his authorized biographer, Robert Draper, in "Dead Certain." "I'm playing for October–November." The rollout of the Petraeus report is the last major political offensive of the Bush administration. Petraeus' reputation is the token for buying precious time for an unpopular president. The Democratic Congress lacks sufficient majorities to alter Bush's policy. Petraeus' show is staged to keep Republicans, on the edge of sheer panic, from defecting en masse. Through Petraeus, Bush is locking in the congressional leaders and the Republican presidential candidates behind his policy. The general has been wound up as a mechanism for Bush's endgame -- perpetuating the president's Iraq policy until the conclusion of his term and assigning responsibility for "victory" or "defeat" to his successor. In his analogizing to the Vietnam War, Bush has begun to lay the basis for a stab-in-the-back, who-lost-Iraq debate, a poisonous legacy.

Sen. John Warner, the Virginia Republican who announced his retirement last week and who has called for disengaging from Iraq, asked Petraeus a simple and obvious question about Bush's policy, one that Bush likes to answer: "Do you feel that that [strategy] is making America safer?" Unexpectedly, Petraeus paused. "I believe this is indeed the best course of action to achieve our objectives in Iraq," he finally replied, carefully sidestepping a direct response. So Warner repeated his question: "Does the [Iraq war] make America safer?" Again Petraeus paused before answering, "I don't know, actually. I have not sat down and sorted it out in my own mind."

In the end, Petraeus could not convince even himself. Petraeus has lost his battle. Crocker has revealed the strategy as hollow. But the policy goes on."

Meanwhile over at CounterPunch , Patrick Cockburn, who has been living in Baghdad since 2003, notes what is really going on in Iraq, irrespective of the 'surge':

"The truest indicator of the level of violence in Iraq is the number of people fleeing their homes because they are terrified that they will be murdered. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees the number of refugees has risen from 50,000 to 60,000 a month and none are returning.

Iraqi society is breaking down. It is no longer possible to get medical treatment for many ailments because 75 per cent of doctors, pharmacists have left their jobs in the hospitals, clinics and universities. The majority of these have fled abroad to join the 2.2 million Iraqis outside the country.

The food rationing system on which five million Iraqis rely to stay alive is also breaking down with two million people no longer being fed because food cannot be distributed in dangerous areas. Rice and beans are of poor quality and flour, tea and baby formula are short. Unemployment is 68 per cent of the workforce, so without a state ration and no jobs, more and more Iraqis are living on the edge of starvation.

No wonder then that what Iraqis believe is happening to them and their country is wholly contrary to the myths pumped out by the White House and the Pentagon. The opinion poll commissioned by ABC news, the BBC and Japanese Television NHK and published yesterday shows that 70 per cent of Iraqis say that their security has got worse during the last six months when the US increased the number of its US troops in Baghdad and surrounding provinces. A solid 57 per cent believe that attacks on coalition forces are acceptable. Some 93 per cent of Sunni approve such attacks and 50 per cent of Shia also back them."

See : The Fakery of General Petraeus : What Iraqis Think About the Surge
Counterpunch- Sept. 11, 2007

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The VFW Speech or No Equivalent for the dumbing down of Historical Memory

Time is an asterisk --- David Byrne(Talking Heads)

Well, Time tends to roll on, and memories are but thoughts run through human heads. Still, I lived through the Vietnam War, and there are many still alive that have memories of that era. I was noticing that Tucker Carlson was born in 1969, so there are many now in the 21st century, who have no memories of that era.

However, with Mr. Bush's VFW speech we have really no equivalent for the dumbing down of historical memory. This speech will undoubtedly be studied in future times, as being sort of a crystalization moment, of the patent dishonesty of the Bush Administration. Already many facets of the speech are being studied.

That being said, I will devote the rest of my post to just a little of the critical reception of this speech:

" James Gerstenzang and Maura Reynolds write in the Los Angeles Times: "Historian Robert Dallek, who has written about the comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam, accused Bush of twisting history. 'It just boggles my mind, the distortions I feel are perpetrated here by the president,' he said in a telephone interview.

"'We were in Vietnam for 10 years. We dropped more bombs on Vietnam than we did in all of World War II in every theater. We lost 58,700 American lives, the second-greatest loss of lives in a foreign conflict. And we couldn't work our will,' he said.

"'What is Bush suggesting? That we didn't fight hard enough, stay long enough? That's nonsense. It's a distortion,' he continued. 'We've been in Iraq longer than we fought in World War II. It's a disaster, and this is a political attempt to lay the blame for the disaster on his opponents. But the disaster is the consequence of going in, not getting out.'"

As Dan Fromkin at the Washington Post notes further:

As Stockman and Bender write in the Globe, political analysts and historians are agog.
"'I couldn't believe it,' said Allan Lichtman, an American University historian, adding that far more Vietnamese died during the war than in the aftermath of the US withdrawal. Lichtman said the rise of the Khmer Rouge, a brutal pro-communist regime, could as easily be attributed to American interference in that country.
"The president's portrayal of the conflict 'is not revisionist history. It is fantasy history,' Lichtman said.

"Melvin Laird, secretary of defense under President Nixon from 1969 to 1973, said Bush is drawing the wrong lessons from history.
"'I don't think what happened in Cambodia after the war has anything to do with Iraq,' Laird said. 'Is he saying we should have invaded Cambodia? That's what we would have had to do, and we would have never done that. I don't see how he draws the parallel.'

"Other historians said Bush bypassed the fact that, after the painful US withdrawal was completed in April 1975, Vietnam stabilized and developed into an economically thriving country that is now a friend of the United States."

Michael Tackett writes in the Chicago Tribune that Bush's remarks "invited stinging criticism from historians and military analysts who said the analogies evidenced scant understanding of those conflicts' true lessons. . . .
"'This was history written by speechwriters without regard to history,' said military analyst Anthony Cordesman. 'And I think most military historians will find it painful. . . . because in basic historical terms the president misstated what happened in Vietnam.' . . .

"Cordesman noted that human tragedies similar to those that occurred in the aftermath of U.S. involvement in Vietnam already have taken place in Iraq.
"'We are already talking about a country where the impact of our invasion has driven 2 million people out of the country, will likely drive out 2 million more, has reduced 8 million people to dire poverty, has killed 100,000 people and wounded 100,000 more,' he said. 'One sits sort of in awe at the lack of historical comparability.'

"It also struck some historians as odd that the president would try to use a divisive issue like Vietnam to rally the nation behind his policy in Iraq. 'If we get into a Vietnam argument, the country is divided, but if you are going to try sell this concept that the blood is on the American people's hands because we left and were weak-kneed in Asia, that is a very tenuous and inane historical argument,' said historian Douglas Brinkley."

And then this from the Associated Press:

"The speech was an act of desperation to scare the American people into staying the course in Iraq. He's distorted the facts, painting all of the people in Iraq as being on the same side which is simply not the case. Iraq is a religious civil war." -- Lawrence Korb, assistant defense secretary under President Reagan and now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington.

"Bush is cherry-picking history to support his case for staying the course. What I learned in Vietnam is that U.S. forces could not conduct a counterinsurgency operation. The longer we stay there, the worse it's going to get." -- Ret. Army Brig. Gen. John Johns, a counterinsurgency expert who served in Vietnam.

"The president emphasized the violence in the wake of American withdrawal from Vietnam. But this happened because the United States left too late, not too early. It was the expansion of the war that opened the door to Pol Pot and the genocide of the Khmer Rouge. The longer you stay the worse it gets." -- Steven Simon, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Here's Democratic strategist Paul Begala on CNN: "He's saying, essentially, that 58,000 dead in Vietnam weren't quite enough, that maybe we should have twice as big a tragic memorial on the Mall.

"And who's saying it? A man who chose not to serve, took steps, used family friends to get out of serving in Vietnam, didn't even show up for his own Guard duty, so that better, braver men could fight that war. He stood before those better, braver men today a coward in the company of heroes."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

3 points to consider from Robert Drapers Dead Certain

The special comment by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC last night, was the best thing I've seen on tv in years. For those with broadband you can watch it again here at this location:

Three important points have already come out from the discussion of Draper's Dead Certain book in the press:

1)Bush says "I'm playing for October-November, to get us in a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence." Thus the reason becomes to stay in Iraq, so that it will become a fait accompli, so it forces his successor to keep us in Iraq too. [Playing with lives, so that any Republican candidates will have to swallow his policy.] How cynical is that?

2)Jim Rutenberg wrote a piece on the biography for this Sunday's NY Times. How disconnected from the gravity of Iraq does our president have to be for this exchange described below (emphasis added) to have taken place?

Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, “The policy was to keep the army intact; didn’t happen.”
But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush’s former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army’s dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’ ” But, he added, “Again, Hadley’s got notes on all of this stuff,” referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser.

I read that several times, trying to convince myself that it meant something other than my first take on it. But it always comes out the same: the President, who was the "decision-maker" behind a war gone horribly wrong claims to simply not know how one of the most crucial decisions was made. And to this day remains so unconcerned about it that (1) he hasn't bothered to find out how the decision was made and by whom, and (2) he can't even remember his reaction to finding out about the decision, even though it purportedly ran contrary to his war policy." - Bush Can't Recall How Iraqi Army Got Disbanded, or His Own ... by Lee Russ.

Letters just released by Paul Bremer show that indeed, Mr. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld were behind the idea.

3) Replenish the coffers- After 2009, Bush in his own words,( who has a net worth estimated at $21 million) plans on: "I'll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol' coffers." Bush added, "I don't know what my dad gets — it's more than 50-75" thousand dollars a speech, and "Clinton's making a lot of money."

So Bush will go on the speech circuit at 50 thousand a pop, maybe they'll call it the ' Architect of Failure' tour, meanwhile many of the wounded coming back from Iraq will face lengthy rehabs, and not likely being able to give $50K speeches to pay for it. And Iraqi civilians will likely still be dying.

This guy is ghastly, ghastly.