Sunday, September 02, 2007

Preparing for the report on the surge to be presented to Congress on September 11

In anticipation of the September 11th report to Congress by General David H. Petraeus and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, the White House and the military are getting ready to make what clearly appears to be a big pitch for “staying the course.”

What are the “big guys” doing in order to sway Congress?

The White House is busy preparing Petraeus's report and George Bush is fighting back, accusing the war’s opponents of politicizing the debate over what to do next.

The military:
A. The Pentagon is challenging the GAO report on Iraq, requesting that some of the assessment’s failing grades on key political and security benchmarks that have been imposed on the Iraqi government as a condition of continued US military support be changed before the final report is made public.
B. General Petraeus: To the extent the White House will let him prepare his own report, Petraeus is pulling together an optimistic report on the success of the surge, according to Glenn Greenwald, who blogs for “When Gen. Petraeus comes in September to laud the Great Progress of the Surge, this will be nothing new. Gen. Petraeus has been telling Americans for years -- since at least 2004 -- that we have been making Great Progress in Iraq…. Gen. Petraeus' explanations as to why his prior, highly optimistic reports did not materialize -- i.e., because of subsequent acts of violence such as the February, 2006 Samara bombing which could not be anticipated -- do not withstand scrutiny. Many of Petraeus' most publicized and influential statements of Great Progress concerned the supposedly vast improvements in Iraqi troop readiness. Those claims -- for whatever reasons -- simply turned out to be false, and subsequent acts of violence do not explain why the Iraqi troops whose readiness he was lauding turned out to be so unreliable.

“Whatever else is true, as we decide (a) what the true state of affairs is in Iraq and (b) what we will do about Iraq, we must take into account the past conduct and claims of various individuals who want to exert influence over those perceptions now. And we should not be relying -- certainly not primarily -- on those who either (a) have been swooning for years about how great things are in Iraq and/or (b) who have a significant personal investment in having the invasion, and especially the Surge, be perceived as a success….

“The point here is that nothing warrants holding up Gen. Petraeus as the Ultimate Objective and Infallible Authority on the state of affairs in Iraq, and there is plenty that counsels against doing so."

Kevin Drum, who blogs for The Washington Monthly has posted General Petraeus's PR Blitzkrieg, well worth reading in its entirety. A snippet: "Petraeus is a four-star general, by all accounts a brilliant man, and a professional student of counterinsurgency. He's keenly aware of the value of both the media and public opinion, and he did what any counterinsurgency expert would have counseled in his circumstances: he unleashed a hearts-and-minds campaign aimed at opinion makers and politicians. For months the military transports to Baghdad have been stuffed with analysts and congress members, and every one of them has gotten a full court press of carefully planned and scripted presentations, tightly controlled visits to favored units, and assorted dollops of 'classified' information designed to flatter his guests and substantiate his rosy assessments without the inconvenience of having to defend them in public."

So how do we get informed? Start with Juan Cole’s Arguments over Night of the Living Dead in Iraq. Excerpt: “I personally find the controversy about Iraq in Washington to be bizarre. Are they really arguing about whether the situation is improving? I mean, you have the Night of the Living Dead over there. People lack potable water, cholera has broken out even in the good areas, a third of people are hungry, a doubling of the internally displaced to at least 1.1 million, and a million pilgrims dispersed just this week by militia infighting in a supposedly safe all-Shiite area. The government has all but collapsed, with even the formerly cooperative sections of the Sunni Arab political class withdrawing in a snit (much less more Sunni Arabs being brought in from the cold). The parliament hasn't actually passed any legislation to speak of and often cannot get a quorum. Corruption is endemic. The weapons we give the Iraqi army are often sold off to the insurgency. Some of our development aid goes to them, too. 'The average number of Iraqis killed in 2007 per day exceeds those killed in 2006. Independent counts by news organizations do not agree with Pentagon estimates about drops in civilian deaths over-all.'

"Nation-wide attacks in June reached a daily all-time high of 177.5. True, violence in Baghdad has been wrestled back down to the levels of summer, 2006 (hint: it wasn't paradise), but violence levels are up in the rest of the country. If you compare each month in 2006 with each month in 2007 with regard to US military deaths, the 2007 picture is dreadful. I saw on CNN this smarmy Bush administration official come and and say that US troop deaths had fallen because of the surge, which is why we should support it. Just read the following chart bottom to top and compare 2006 month by month to 2007. US troop deaths haven't fallen. They are way up. Besides, they would be zero if the US were not occupying Iraq militarily, so if we should support a policy that leads to fewer troop deaths, that is the better policy. Here are the US troop death via
8-2007 77 : 8-2006 65
7-2007 79 : 7-2006 43
6-2007 101: 6-2006 61
5-2007 126: 5-2006 69
4-2007 104: 4-2006 76
3-2007 81: 3-2006 31
2-2007 81: 2-2006 55
1-2007 83: 1-2006 62"

Then go to's A masterful con job in which Steve Benen posts, “A couple of days ago, the NYT reported that the White House 'is growing more confident that it can beat back efforts by Congressional Democrats to shift course in Iraq.' It's not because conditions in Iraq have improved, and it's not because the president's policy is producing results, but because the administration has 'a sense the dynamic has changed. '

“It's all about some amorphous 'sense' that's entirely independent of reality. Consider what we've learned this week. The GAO prepared a 'strikingly negative' assessment of conditions on the ground, with no political progress (the intended point of the 'surge') and little evidence of reduced violence. Of the 18 Iraqi benchmarks, Bush's policy has come up short on 15. An independent federal commission believes Iraq's 26,000-member national police force is beyond repair and might need to be disbanded altogether. A working draft of a secret document prepared by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad shows that the Maliki government is rotten to the core. Iraqi civilian deaths are getting worse, not better. The latest data shows U.S. troop fatalities worse every month this year compared to the same months last year. A smidgeon of evidence pointing to at least marginal political progress late last week turned out to be smoke and mirrors."

Keep reading everything you can between now and September 11. While the hearing is going on and presumably aired on C-Span, have your Congressional representative’s phone number and your homework handy.

(photo the a surge of detainees in Iraq:, and as reported in The New York Times on August 25, 2007, Detainees soar with surge)


alt said...

What a mess! Is there anyone anywhere that can get us out of this? -- Maybe only a new dictatorship for Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Alt, in the comment above, suggests only a new dictatorship in Iraq can get us out of the mess in Iraq, soon to be spreading to Iran.

Before Saddam was hanged, I often suggested, and not entirely in jest, that Saddam be subjected to plastic surgery and reinstalled as the dictator. Okay, so give him a new name but wink wink, we would all suspect that it was really the old Saddam.

Since then I have come to believe that the neocons want to kill all Arabs so as to better steal their oil. How else to explain why they tolerate so many deaths?

The neocons know the rest of us won't tolerate those deaths so they lie to us, using some incredibly phony statistics.

As Gail wisely counsels, we need to keep our underlined printouts handy along with Mike Thompson's (202-225-3311), Barbara Boxer's (202-224-3553), and Dianne Feinstein's (202-224-3841) phone numbers handy so we can remind them of the truth as they listen to the administration's lies.

Better yet, program those numbers in our cell phones.