Monday, August 17, 2009

Look Who's Not Talking

Iraq is back in the commode mode. Violence there is on the rise again. According to Colonel Timothy Reese, chief of the Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team, the political goals of the surge have not been met and never will be. Iraq’s government and security forces are choked with ineffectiveness, corruption, cronyism, nepotism, laziness and lack of initiative. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander in Iraq, says these are mere “tactical issues.”

Things look even worse in the Bananastans. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, sold to Congress and the country as the second coming of David Petraeus, is getting his garrison cap handed to him and doesn’t seem to know which way to point his weapon. At his Senate confirmation hearings, McChrystal promised that the “measure of effectiveness” in Afghanistan would not be the number of insurgent guerillas killed but the number of Afghan civilians protected. Upon his arrival in Afghanistan he continued to conduct the airstrikes that have killed so many civilians and ordered a major offensive designed to kill insurgent guerillas.

The major offensive didn’t work out. The guerilla insurgents did what guerillas are supposed to do—they ran away rather than stand and fight a superior force, choosing instead to strike unexpectedly at lightly defended outposts. McChrystal, who is supposed to be an “expert” at fighting insurgent guerilla forces, was “surprised” that the guerilla insurgent forces he was fighting fought the way insurgent guerilla forces typically fight. McChrystal was originally against trying to bargain with Taliban leaders. Now he says he wants to bargain with them.

It’s becoming easier by the minute to believe that McChrystal only eats one meal a day and just sleeps a few hours a night. In an August 11 interview with NPR, McChrystal droned incoherently, sounding like Gen. Jack D. Ripper babbling about “precious bodily fluids” and the evil effects of putting fluoride in children’s ice cream.

In response to these crises, Gen. David Petraeus, chief of Central Command responsible for both the Iraq and Bananastans theaters, says the U.S. will help Yemen fight terror. It sounds like he’s making Iraq and the Bananastans someone else’s problem.

The only successful strategies that “military genius” David Petraeus has been involved with so far have involved feeding David Petraeus’s ambition. He isn’t much of a warrior, but he’s a Rove-class spin merchant.

His tour as commander of Mosul after the fall of Baghdad was hailed as a shining success amid a sea of incompetence, but Petraeus merely achieved a false peace in the city by bribing everyone to lie low. After he left, Mosul went up for grabs and it remains a trouble spot to this day. During his next Iraq assignment, while in charge of training Iraqi security forces, Petraeus allowed more than 100,000 AK-47s and other military gear migrate into the hands of militants. Later, as top commander in Iraq, he repeated his tried-and-true methods, creating an artificial drop in violence levels by handing out weapons to militias and bribing the militias not to use them. Today, two-and-a-half years after the surge began, the situation in Iraq is as precarious as it has ever been.

Petraeus’s performances would have earned other military officers a permanent transfer to Fort Palooka. Incredibly, though, Petraeus is now the most important U.S. theater-strategic commander since Dwight Eisenhower had charge of the European Theater of Operations during World War II, and he may be the next former general to become, like Ike, a Republican commander in chief.

Petraeus’s spectacular rise was the result of the key methods used by most of today’s top power piranhas: connections and media manipulation. Among his most important connections has been his long-time mentor, retired Army lieutenant general Jack Keane, who had access to both young Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney, and was a darling of the neoconservative warmongery nominally headed by Bill Kristol. It was Keane who championed Petraeus at the White House and who, during the early days of the surge, silenced Petraeus’s critics in the Pentagon.

Petraeus’s other golden connection is veteran military correspondent Thomas E. Ricks, who met Petraeus when he was a colonel or lieutenant colonel (Ricks can’t remember which). The myth of Petraeus’s “very successful tour” in Mosul largely sprang from Ricks’ 2005 book Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. When Petraeus snagged the assignment to command the entire Iraq theater in early 2007, Ricks kicked the hagiography machine into overdrive, referring to Petraeus as a “force of nature” and a “fascinating character” who was “just about the best general in the Army.” Ricks later went so far as to compare Petraeus to Alexander the Great.

The hapless U.S. media aped Ricks’ hyperbole. Petraeus became “the most admired American general of recent times” and the man who “wrote the book on counterinsurgency” (even though the only part of the new Army and Marine Corps manual on counterinsurgency he actually wrote was his signature on the endorsing letter). In December 2007 Time magazine named Petraeus its “Person of the Year.” The next week, Kristol’s absurd Weekly Standard promoted Petraeus to “America’s Man of the Year.”

Such hoopla for a general who has dug us into an even deeper hole than the one we were in before.

Petraeus is also the master of two other techniques of modern American leadership: knowing when to keep one’s mouth shut and how to delegate blame to one’s subordinates. Though he has pulled the strings of his public relations campaign, his accolades have come from mouthpieces like Ricks and Petraeus’s erstwhile personal public affairs colonel Steven Boylan, as have the declarations of surge strategy’s “success,” and Petraeus attacks his critics through proxies like Boylan and the rabid right-wing blogosphere. Petraeus himself maintains a modest demeanor in public, and always speaks cautiously about the status of his military operations.

If McChrystal is Petraeus’s second coming, Ray Odierno is a retroactive prequel. In the hands of Ricks, Odie made an eye-watering transformation from Desert Ox to Desert Fox. In Fiasco, Odierno’s hoof-fisted tactics were the irritant that gave rise to the Iraq insurgency. In Rick’s 2009 book The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008, Odierno became the “dissenter who changed the war” by pushing for the surge and embracing the new counterinsurgency manual. If Iraq reverts back to a fiasco and the quagmire gels in the Bananastans, Odierno and McChrystal will take the fall, as will their commander in chief Barack Obama.

Petraeus will emerge from the dung heap of U.S. foreign policy emitting the aura of an American Caesar and the aroma of rose petals.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.


  1. "Iraq’s government and security forces are choked with ineffectiveness, corruption, cronyism, nepotism, laziness and lack of initiative."---Must be why we invaded, because they are a threat to our freedoms...etc.. and so on.... Jeezus, makes you want to weep and laugh at the same time.

  2. Andrei Vyshinsky11:38 PM

    When the full extent of the crimes - that is to say the financial usurpation and the imperialist adventurism - that have been worked on them by the ruling clique and the lobbying interests is grasped by the people, the whole notion of the emasculation of their democracy and their consequent powerlessness will take hold. At such time it will become entirely clear that the only remedial steps that remain to them are mass demonstations and the general strike. Once a new constitutional convention has been convened with the aim of making a new democracy, one impervious to the exploited vulnerabilities of its predecessor, the time will be ripe for the detention and public trial of the filth that made such steps necessary. It will be then that the Petrauses and the Odiernos will enjoy a new kind of
    notariety, one marked by tearful confessions and expressions of a personal desire for stern justice.

    personal desire for stern justice.

  3. I have to ask.

    Are the Iraqis in revolt, or is Blackwater still up to its old tricks??

    So, we elected a President opposed to the Iraq war.

    And.... we now have a President who is supporting, and expanding the war in Afghanistan???

    Yep. Does make you want to cry, and laugh at the same time.

    P.T. Barnum said it best. Or Maybe it was Mark Twain. Whatever. Somebody said "There is a Sucker Born Every Minute."

  4. Yes, Petraeus will certainly get long meaningful looks from the GOP as 2012 approaches.


    Hell, the rumor about AL Gov. Bob Riley was floating around this week -- but Bob says he won't run, it's just hearsay.

    The GOP won't kill themselves trying to win the White House in 2012; they know 2016 will be a cakewalk. Their focus will likely be on Repub Revolution 2.0 and a brand-new Contract on America.

  5. It was Barnum, i believe.

  6. I read somewhere this morning that Babe Odierno is looking for more soldiers to take north to the Kurdish region of Iraq. Violence is increasing in the once (relatively) peaceful and prosperous oil-rich region. I'm having trouble keeping up with the whys and wherefores of all this. The rest of Iraq is, of course, a total mess.

    Afghanistan is a complete mess. Kabul has had two massive explosions, one near the NATO compound (I think Stan the Man was in residence at the time) and today, rockets into the presidential compound.

    Great head-scratching and puzzlement over how bombers with explosive vests (the first incident) could have reached the NATO headquarters although they had to pass through several checkpoints manned by Afghan soldiers and police.

    I think the last adjective in that sentence might give a slight clue.

    The next couple of days and the weeks after the "election" are going to be a bloodbath.

    Is it possible that Teflon Dave could become U.S. president? Really?

  7. Yeah, Fil, disasters everywhere. I keep asking myself who does the GOP have to put up better than TD, and I can't think of anyone.


  8. Petraeus, McChrystal and other useful idiots have destroyed the military as I knew it. Petraeus is a lap dog, a polititian who should have received his just desserts decades ago. He is a liar first and foremost and as far as respect goes, he deserves none from me.

    McChrystal is a name I recognize from the Pat Tillman killing.. He was that "Xtian" General who did all the lying and covering up on Tillman. He is guilty of a lot and most of it is hypocrisy. Being an old Navy Chief, and not having much use for "sky pilots" of any persuasion, (You keep your god outta my military and I will keep my military outta yer churches!"). Why is it that the biggest evil doers are those who follow some silly cloud being that no one has ever seen or heard? I personally believe that most of these morsels of dog feces are becoming rich off the blood, sweat and tears of those foolish enough to follow their foolish orders.

    I am now a true believer in the old adage, "Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart!"

    Thanks Commander, I would have given both arms to have been a Chief under your command.

    Bravo Zulu!

    Just this old Chief's 2 cents

  9. Maybe it will be a GOP Petraeus/Bachmann ticket.


    God talks to her, too.

    Or... she hears voices in her head.
    One of the two.

  10. OMG! Brilliant: a Palin/Bachman ticket. President and Vice president Crazy!

  11. "A Palin/Bachman ticket" Damn, that is surely a pair to draw to.. Both would leave slime trails on the carpets and neither ever met a fire plug they didn't lust after

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