It's been another week chock full of Bush administration double talk, starting off with the latest stall for time in the Iraq "surge" strategy.
The New York Times reported that in closed-door videoconferences on Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker told members of Congress that it was unlikely that the Iraqi government could reach all its benchmarks by September. But that shouldn't be a reason to abandon the present strategy, according to Crocker. The 18 benchmarks may not be the best measure of success in Iraq, he says.
As a vassal of the Bush administration, Crocker doesn't want the Iraq policy and strategy held up to any measures of success because measures of success are also measures of failure.
The Fear of Fear Itself
Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the number two U.S. commander in Iraq, told Pentagon reporters that it will really take "at least until November" before to tell whether the surge strategy is working. One wonders what Odierno will have to say come November.
Odierno, his boss General David Petraeus, and Crocker characterized the coming September report as nothing more than a snapshot. When government types call a situational analysis a "snapshot," they're generally saying that it's transitory to the point of being worthless, and that they can't be held responsible for any conclusions the target audience might walk away with. And if, after more than four years of occupying Iraq and roughly 9 months into the "surge" strategy, a "snapshot" is the best the boys in charge of the operation can give in September, it will be the best analysis they'll ever be able to give in November too, or at any time after that.
Ambassador Crocker warned legislators that, “If there is one word I would use to sum up the atmosphere in Iraq — on the streets, in the countryside, in the neighborhoods and at the national level--that word would be fear.”
When one congressman asked General Petraeus what the consequences would be if he were ordered to begin withdrawing one Army brigade a month, Petraeus said that the Iraqis would become more fearful.
That's a heck of a lot of fear from a population that overwhelmingly (70 percent) want us out of their country, 61 percent of which supports attacks against U.S. led forces, and 58 percent of which believes overall violence will decrease if U.S. troops leave.
Wanted: Dead or Alive, Sooner or Later
Fran Townsend, President Bush's homeland security adviser, had a heck of a day Sunday on Wolf Blitzer's Late Edition. When Wolf asked if the U.S. government was ready to use military force to strike Pakistan in an attempt to take out Osama bin Laden and other high ranking al-Qaeda leaders, Townsend responded, "No question that we will use any instrument at our disposal to deal with the problem of Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri and Al Qaida."
Those are interesting words, coming from an adviser on homeland security who, in theory at least, has no business talking about foreign policy matters in a public forum. At a minimum, Townsend stomped on rice bowls belonging to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Adviser, the "War Czar" who does most of the National Security Adviser's job, and, oh yeah, Congress, the branch of government that supposedly authorizes things like launching strikes on other countries.
It's also interesting that Townsend said we "will use any instrument at our disposal to deal with the problem of Osama bin Laden." The tallest Arab ever wanted dead or alive by a U.S. president is still at large. It's obvious that we haven't used any instrument at our disposal to deal with Osama bin Laden for more than five years.
Some Dis-assembly Required
As is often the case, the top prize for exceptional audacity in the blathering department for last week goes to the commander in chief himself.
On Friday, Bush criticized Senate majority leader Harry Reid for pulling the defense authorization bill on Wednesday after Republicans blocked a proposal in the bill to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq within 120 days. Bush specifically pointed out that failure to pass the bill had blocked a military pay raise of 3.5 percent.
The irony (if such a thing as irony still exists) is that when the Congress first proposed a 3.5 percent military pay hike for fiscal year 2008, the White House objected that 3.5 percent was unnecessary, that 3 percent would do quite nicely. Moreover, as Reid pointed out, the authorization bill wouldn't take effect until October, do pulling it off the floor now doesn't threaten the troops' pay raise or the flow of equipment and supplies they need to conduct Mr. Bush's woebegone Middle East wars.
Lo and Behold
It's not like most of us haven't seen this coming, but the truth of Bush's intentions in Iraq are finally bubbling to the surface. The New York Times reported Tuesday morning that Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus have prepared a detailed plan for Iraq that will involve a significant American role for the next two years. The "Joint Campaign Plan," according to NYT's Michael R. Gordon, "is an elaboration of the new strategy President Bush signaled in January when he decided to send five additional American combat brigades and other units to Iraq."
The plan involves two phases: "local security" in Baghdad and other areas to be achieved by June 2008 and "sustainable security" on a nationwide basis to be established by summer of 2009.
Military officials in Iraq are careful to note that there is no guarantee of the plan's success, Gordon notes. Which means that even though they want two more years to "get the job done," the job may take even longer than that.
It's funny how Crocker and Petraeus claim they won't be able to assess the "surge" in September, but they already know we need to spend at least two more years in Iraq.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.