Thursday, September 13, 2007

For What?

Hagel to Petraeus: 'For What?' (by Jim Wallis)

Gen. Petraeus faced much tougher questions in the U.S. Senate on his second day of testimony, Tuesday, than he did before the House committees on Monday. The senators, many quite experienced in foreign policy matters, were far less impressed by the general's reports of modest tactical success on the security front when there was no evidence of political reconciliation. This became more and more apparent as the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, was confronted with a bipartisan grilling. On its own expressed terms of making a political solution in Iraq possible, the "surge" is a failed policy, despite minor (and still disputable) security gains. And Gen. Petraeus' suggestion to simply stay the course is nothing more than an open-ended commitment to an American occupation in the middle of an Iraqi civil war with no end in sight.

Democratic Senator Joe Biden bluntly stated that the goal of an Iraqi central government that united the Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish factions is simply not possible and that it is "time to turn the corner" on U.S. strategy. Republican Senator (and Vietnam War veteran) Chuck Hagel cited many bleak reports of Iraq by other independent and nonpartisan groups, telling Petraeus, "We've got too many disconnects here, General, way too many disconnects." Hagel demanded an answer to the most basic question about Iraq: "Where is this going?" He pressed Petraeus, "Are we going to continue to invest American blood and treasure at the same rate we're doing now? For what?"

But the most stunning exchange of the day came on a question from Republican John Warner, one of the Senate's elder statesmen on military matters. The Chicago Tribune reported:

Warner concluded with a question: "Are you able to say at this time, if we continue what you have laid before the Congress here as a strategy, do you feel that that is making America safer?"

Petraeus said the strategy was the best course for achieving U.S. objectives in Iraq.

"Does that make America safer?" pushed Warner.

Said Petraeus, "Sir, I don't know, actually. I have not sat down and sorted it out in my own mind."

Petraeus' response to one of the most fundamental questions for the American people about the war in Iraq—does this war make us safer?—was "I don't know." Every day, young Americans are being asked to risk and give their lives for a policy that the commanding general can't say is making America safer. Extraordinary.

posted by God's Politics @ 1:12 PM | Permalink

Mark this:

I want to take issue with one of the posts reacting to the initial article. My comments are in parenthses after the point made by MARK @ September 12, 2007 4:32 PM

"Mr. Wallis -

Your points with regard to the Patraeus hearings are well taken. However, if the U.S. simply pulls its forces out of Iraq, without a secure and stable government in place, may this not lead to:

1) Full-scale civil war between Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds

(What do you think we have now? This fear is devoid of meaning... there is a civil war kicking right now. Operation Iraqi Freedom has morphed from an operation of liberation to a police action to confiscate non existent WMD's to a war on a tactic of warfare [terrorism] to a war on sectarian fighting. The latter clinging to a very irrational bit of reasoning that somehow the insurgents in Iraq will invade America en masse if we do not confront them in Iraq. I will point out that we have the most potent military machine in world history occupying Iraq right now. THEY are unable to control the road from downtown Baghdad to the airport. Is the fear that somehow a rag tag army of Islamic militants is going to overthrow America a legitimate one? No. There is simply no way that they will be able to do anything more than slip in a few attacks. The very idea that they would be able to overthrow say Dallas or Los Angeles alone is completely unbalanced fear mongering. )

2) Massive civilian casualties
(What do you think we have now? The Iraqis have paid in flesh to an untold degree while fellows like us have the luxury of airmchair quarterbacking this thing from the saftey of our computuer desks. This is not a legitimate reason to continue doing what we are doing now and expecting different results. Every time we kill 10 enemy we create 40 more in a self sustaining cycle of violence and revenge.)

3) Total loss of stability in the region (Do you think its more stable now than before? What is the plan to make it more stable?)

4) Possible invasion by Syria, Iran, or others into Iraq (Is this not a possibility now especially when we (the U.S.)have stretched ourselves thinly and created unbalance and weakness for these enemies to target?)

5) A safe haven in Iraq for terrorist bases and training camps
(We have created the greatest training ground ever by our presence there. This situation did not exist before we disbanded the Iraqi army and invaded a country on basically false pretenses. The invasion of Iraq has been a dream come true for Al Quaeda which has more money, more weapons and more popular support than EVER because of our foolish pride, arrogance and lack of planning. All one had to do to predict the sequnce of events that would follow the U.S. invasion of Iraq was do a Google search about the crusades or the British occupation of Iraq. 8 of the 9 crusades were complete failures as was the British occupation for the same reasons. The armies rolled in an achieved stunning victories in the fields of battle... then they settled in for occupation and control and got bled out by constant guerilla attacks. eventually the stress of fighting so far from home, using up so many personel and so much money and hardware simply became too expensive to sustain. Cheney and Rumsfeld and company must have never studied history at all... or else been so proud and self assured that they assumed the only thing they needed to plan for was the glorious victory parades.)

6) A failure to establish a democracy in the region -with democracy being perhaps the best long-term solution to ending religious fundamentalism, and ultimately terrorism. (You're kidding right? See above. It appears we are trying to replace militant, Islamic fundamentalism with pro- American, militant ideology and fundamentalism. Also, we keep hearing about how "you can't reason with these people"... Why then are we trying to build democracy there? Not only that... we are trying to install a democracy in Iraq- sandwiched between other Islamic nations without even discussing it with Iran, Syria and so forth. How can this be seen as anything but prideful hubris? )

7) A complete loss of U.S. credibility and a message to terrorists and dictators around the world that the U.S. does not have the will to prevail (Again you must be kidding. Hatred for America is at an all time high these days. We completely lost credibility over the WMD issue. Do you remember just after 9/11 when there were over a million people marching in the streets of Tehran in SUPPORT of the U.S. and in horror of what had been done in the name of Islam? My, how the tables have turned. Ahmedinejad is a nut. Does he alone speak for every Iranian? I hear talk all the time from allegedly Christian people about just nuking Iran. That would be like nuking your family or mine because of the policies of Bush. That would not exactly be wise or fair and certainly not legitimate in any religious sense. Why is Christianity in any form tolerating such talk? How is this in keeping with the gospel model of behaviour whatsoever? )

He said:
I am curious to know what course of action you suggest to stop and prevent bloodshed in Iraq, and bring about peace?"

(What is YOUR plan? To keep doing the same thing and expect different results? Why must I/we that said "don't do this" now have to have a plan? None of this should have ever happened. The situation is now such that only God can fix it. Turn to Him instead of an idolatrous, prideful adulation of the U.S. for answers to these questions. )


One more thing. People keep acting like those who opposed this war and those who want to sensibly and strategically end this war have no plan. The problem is actually that the people making those assertions are simply not listening. I am not particularly a fan of Joe Biden (yet), however, he is one of the few in Washington that is actually making sense on all of this. He has the best plan I have heard. I encourage everyone to look into that whether you plan to vote for him in the '08 elections or not.

1 comment:

S. Starr said...

(beware of bad language in quotes from someone else):

I just caught a bit of the ole Hannity and Colmes show where they were going though some of this. Generally I can't handle that show because it invariably counteracts my meds and spikes my blood pressure. I quickly changed channels as soon as I saw Hannity's lips move so as to avoid a stroke.

They were discussing that ad that came out accusing Petraeus of being dishonest. I would like to say that I have never even visited Moveon in case you wonder.

Anyhow, I don't think Petraeus is a dishonorable man. I don't think he was being perfectly honest either... or that he knows that much more than anybody else just because he was on the ground there. I don't think he has that great of an understanding of the situation any more than anyone can from one particular perspective. As pointed out- its kinda like asking the left tackle of the Dallas Cowboys about the inner workings and the management of the team- all he knows really is some generalities and how to do his particular job. I have friends that were in New Orleans as first responders after Katrina and they say that all they can do is tell you what their perspective was from a particular place at a particular time. They said communication and co-ordination was terrible- no group seemed to know what any other group was doing at any given time.

Anyhow, Hannity and Colmes and a few guests were tussling over the Moveon thing...
Colmes actually got off a great shot by pointing out that Admiral William Fallon, chief of the Central Command (CENTCOM), derided Petraeus as a sycophant and asskissing little chickenshit- and then asking why nobody was calling this man a treasonous traitor, America and military hating coward and hollering that he should burn in Hell like they were "House Democrats".

By the way I hate that swill of how the press always say something like "House Democrats disagree or House Democrats opposed the measure"... they keep portraying this whole God awful mess like there are two and only two factions debating it and thus implying that everybody is either a Republican or a Democrat. I could not care less about either one of these political parties. I oppose certain ideas and aspects of this thing and I am not a democrat.

"Interesting times", sez I.

Here is the story on Fallon and Petraeus' emnity:

U.S.-IRAQ: Fallon Derided Petraeus, Opposed the Surge
By Gareth Porter*

WASHINGTON, Sep 12 (IPS) - In sharp contrast to the lionisation of Gen. David Petraeus by members of the U.S. Congress during his testimony this week, Petraeus's superior, Admiral William Fallon, chief of the Central Command (CENTCOM), derided Petraeus as a sycophant during their first meeting in Baghdad last March, according to Pentagon sources familiar with reports of the meeting.

Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" and added, "I hate people like that", the sources say. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.

That extraordinarily contentious start of Fallon's mission to Baghdad led to more meetings marked by acute tension between the two commanders. Fallon went on develop his own alternative to Petraeus's recommendation for continued high levels of U.S. troops in Iraq during the summer.

The enmity between the two commanders became public knowledge when the Washington Post reported Sep. 9 on intense conflict within the administration over Iraq. The story quoted a senior official as saying that referring to "bad relations" between them is "the understatement of the century".

Fallon's derision toward Petraeus reflected both the CENTCOM commander's personal distaste for Petraeus's style of operating and their fundamental policy differences over Iraq, according to the sources.

The policy context of Fallon's extraordinarily abrasive treatment of his subordinate was Petraeus's agreement in February to serve as front man for the George W. Bush administration's effort to sell its policy of increasing U.S. troop strength in Iraq to Congress.

In a highly unusual political role for an officer who had not yet taken command of a war, Petraeus was installed in the office of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, in early February just before the Senate debated Bush's troop increase. According to a report in The Washington Post Feb. 7, senators were then approached on the floor and invited to go McConnell's office to hear Petraeus make the case for the surge policy.

Fallon was strongly opposed to Petraeus's role as pitch man for the surge policy in Iraq adopted by Bush in December as putting his own interests ahead of a sound military posture in the Middle East and Southwest Asia -- the area for which Fallon's CENTCOM is responsible.

The CENTCOM commander believed the United States should be withdrawing troops from Iraq urgently, largely because he saw greater dangers elsewhere in the region. "He is very focused on Pakistan," said a source familiar with Fallon's thinking, "and trying to maintain a difficult status quo with Iran."

By the time Fallon took command of CENTCOM in March, Pakistan had become the main safe haven for Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda to plan and carry out its worldwide operations, as well as being an extremely unstable state with both nuclear weapons and the world's largest population of Islamic extremists.

Plans for continued high troop levels in Iraq would leave no troops available for other contingencies in the region.

Fallon was reported by the New York Times to have been determined to achieve results "as soon as possible". The notion of a long war, in contrast, seemed to connote an extended conflict in which Iraq was but a chapter.

Fallon also expressed great scepticism about the basic assumption underlying the surge strategy, which was that it could pave the way for political reconciliation in Iraq. In the lead story Sep. 9, The Washington Post quoted a "senior administration official" as saying that Fallon had been "saying from Day One, 'This isn't working.' "

One of Fallon's first moves upon taking command of CENTCOM was to order his subordinates to avoid the term "long war" -- a phrase Bush and Secretary of Defence Robert M. Gates had used to describe the fight against terrorism.

Fallon was signaling his unhappiness with the policy of U.S. occupation of Iraq for an indeterminate period. Military sources explained that Fallon was concerned that the concept of a long war would alienate Middle East publics by suggesting that U.S. troops would remain in the region indefinitely.

During the summer, according to the Post Sep. 9 report, Fallon began to develop his own plans for redefine the U.S. mission in Iraq, including a plan for withdrawal of three-quarters of the U.S. troop strength by the end of 2009.

The conflict between Fallon and Petraeus over Iraq came to a head in early September. According to the Post story, Fallon expressed views on Iraq that were sharply at odds with those of Petraeus in a three-way conversation with Bush on Iraq the previous weekend. Petraeus argued for keeping as many troops in Iraq for as long as possible to cement any security progress, but Fallon argued that a strategic withdrawal from Iraq was necessary to have sufficient forces to deal with other potential threats in the region.

Fallon's presentation to Bush of the case against Petraeus's recommendation for keeping troop levels in Iraq at the highest possible level just before Petraeus was to go public with his recommendations was another sign that Petraeus's role as chief spokesperson for the surge policy has created a deep rift between him and the nation's highest military leaders. Bush presumably would not have chosen to invite an opponent of the surge policy to make such a presentation without lobbying by the top brass.

Fallon had a "visceral distaste" for what he regarded as Petraeus's sycophantic behaviour in general, which had deeper institutional roots, according to a military source familiar with his thinking.

Fallon is a veteran of 35 years in the Navy, operating in an institutional culture in which an officer is expected to make enemies in the process of advancement. "If you are Navy captain and don't have two or three enemies, you're not doing your job," says the source.

Fallon acquired a reputation for a willingness to stand up to powerful figures during his tenure as commander in chief of the Pacific Command from February 2005 to March 2007. He pushed hard for a conciliatory line toward and China, which put him in conflict with senior military and civilian officials with a vested interest in pointing to China as a future rival and threat.

He demonstrated his independence from the White House when he refused in February to go along with a proposal to send a third naval carrier task force to the Persian Gulf, as reported by IPS in May. Fallon questioned the military necessity for the move, which would have signaled to Iran a readiness to go to war. Fallon also privately vowed that there would be no war against Iran on his watch, implying that he would quit rather than accept such a policy.

A crucial element of Petraeus's path of advancement in the Army, on the other hand, was through serving as an aide to senior generals. He was assistant executive officer to the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Carl Vuono, and later executive assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Henry Shelton. His experience taught him that cultivating senior officers is the key to success.

The contrasting styles of the two men converged with their conflict over Iraq to produce one of the most intense clashes between U.S. military leaders in recent history.

*Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in June 2005.