Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The great Iraq shell game.

Oh no, not another "surprise" visit to Iraq! Yes, another surprise visit to Iraq. Yesterday W. made a 7 hour pit-stop at Al-Asad Airbase in the middle of nowhere Anbar province while on his way to Australia. [AP]

Now, some might think that this is all just a cynical PR maneuver intended to undercut the Democrats in Congress calling for a troop withdrawal. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Dana Perino says she "wholeheartedly" disagrees with that notion; in fact, the purpose of this very important presidential visit is "An opportunity for the president to meet with the commander on the ground and his ambassador on the ground while they are in fact on the ground together."

According to Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrel, this is the last big get together, where everyone is on the ground, "before the president makes a decision on the way forward." You see, he hasn't made up his mind yet; he's waiting for what Petraeus and Crocker are going to say about the progress of the surge. W. says, "I urge members of both parties in Congress to listen to what they have to say. Congress shouldn't jump to conclusions until the general and the ambassador report."

Yes, after four years no one should be jumping to any hasty conclusions about what's going on in Iraq. Of course, we already know all this business about waiting for the general and the ambassador to report is a big load of crap. The fix is already in: As the LA Times reported on Aug. 15:

"Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government."

The big headline in all the papers this morning is W. saying there might be troop reductions. W. says, "Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker tell me if the kind of success we're now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces."

Right, but read the small print, they're not coming home; they're going on an all expence paid trip to Baghdad or Basra.

The same LA Times article reports:

"According to the officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus is expected to propose the partial pullback in his September status report to Congress. . . But it does not necessarily follow that Petraeus would call for reducing the overall number of troops in the country. Instead, he could move them to another hot spot, or use them to create a reserve force to counter any rise in violence."

[A hot spot like Basra for example? The Brits will be totally out of Iraq by the end of this year and the Daily Telegraph reported on 2/9: "It emerged yesterday that the Pentagon was planning to deploy extra forces to Basra to protect Iraq's crucial oil fields amid growing fears in Washington that Britain is preparing to withdraw its forces from southern Iraq." ]

Some members of W.'s party in Congress might be fooled by this slight of hand but I don't think the troops themselves are. I didn't hear the whole speech W. made to his captive audience of Marines while at al-Asad, but this little clip from NPR yesterday is sort of revealing.

W. says the decision to bring the troops, "Will be based on a calm assessment by our military commanders on the conditions on the ground — not a nervous reaction by Washington politicians to poll results in the media. In other words, when we begin to draw down troops from Iraq it will be from a position of strength and success — not from a position of fear and failure."

At that point . . . there is complete silence. You can tell W. is waiting for the applause and then you hear one person [probably an NCO] say, "Hoo ah" and then there is a burst from the room of "hoo ah" and one person claps twice.

It wasn't exactly the most enthusiastic response to W.'s defiant stand against those "Washington politicians" who we and they all hate so much.

By the way, just a thought: I wonder if anyone of those Marines sitting there listening to W. -- while contemplating the prospect of spending another 12 or so months in Iraq -- made the connection between the situation they're in and the fact that those "nervous" Washington politicians -- Democrats not Republicans -- are simply reacting to their constituents demands that the troops be brought home and this war be ended. That's what we call democracy.


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