It’s a sign of the New American times that even when we know we don’t have cogent grounds to continue our woebegone wars, we can’t invent compelling reasons to end them.
In September 2009, President Obama caved to Pentagon demands to send more troops to the Bananastans* even though nobody in the Department of Defense could tell him what they’d do with the extra troops. This was before Obama fired Gen. David McKiernan as Bananastan commander to make way for Gen. Stan McChrystal, who was fired to make way for Gen. David Petraeus, whom Obama should have fired the second he took office, along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen, and the rest of the Bush administration Pentarchy**.
Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana is the latest voice in Congress to express doubt about what is now inescapably Obama’s war. Once a supporter of our imperial pratfall in the Bananastans, Lugar now says, “The lack of clarity in Afghanistan does not end with the president’s timetable,” and he thinks that our involvement there is “proceeding without a clear definition of success.” Politeness Man couldn’t have put it more civilly.
We don’t have coherent war aims. The “realistic and achievable” objectives that Obama’s national security “Chess Masters” established in their March 2009 Bananastans policy paper revolved around a “core goal” to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda and its safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return to Pakistan or Afghanistan.”
CIA director Leon Panetta recently reaffirmed that the number of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is “50 to 100. Maybe less.” Maybe none. Michael E. Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, says there are “somewhat more than 300” al-Qaeda characters hiding in Pakistan, which means there are somewhat fewer than 400 there for a total of less than 500 of them in the Bananastans. Since experts like Leiter say the vast majority of al-Qaedeers are in the Bananastans that puts their strength worldwide at comfortably under 1,000. A 2005 report by the Century Foundation said that al-Qaeda never had more than “several hundred” formal members. (The Century Foundation was talking about the real al-Qaeda, not the copyright violators in Iraq. The “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia” hooligans are like a college that calls itself “The Harvard of Northwest Indiana.”)
Whatever al-Qaeda’s exact number is, it’s a safe bet that it has fewer card-carrying members than the Ku Klux Klan or NAMBLA. Leiter says we’ve made “incredible successes” against al-Qaeda, and that the group “is weaker today than it has been at any time since 2001.” But, but, but, but, but, Leiter quickly adds, “Weaker does not mean harmless!” Senior Pentagon bull-feather merchant Mullen does Leiter one better: he’s worried about the “depth of synergies” between al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups, including (ominous chord) the Taliban! Where do we find such admirals? The next thing you know, Mullen will be asking for a defense budget hike to help close the “depth-of-synergies gap.”
And as I’ve often noted, even if there’s only one al-Qaeda member, the only safe haven he needs to plan and direct terrorist operations against Americans is a pocket big enough to hold his smart phone. For the U.S. military to deny al-Qaeda sanctuary, it would have to occupy every nook and cranny of the earth from the bottom of the Marianas Trench to the peak of Mount Everest, something that couldn’t occur even in neocon prodigy Freddie Kagan’s wettest dream ever.
The only genuine security threats the Bananastans present to the U.S. are the nukes in Pakistan and the heroin in Afghanistan, but none of our national security tank-thinkers give a pig’s wings about either of those things. If we ever decide to so something about those threats, though, the Air Force and Navy could bomb both of them back to the molecular level in less time than it takes the Baltimore Orioles to lose a baseball game.
Other “realistic and achievable” goals set out by the white paper included establishing legitimate governments and effective security forces in both Bananastans. We’ll cure cancer before either of those things will happen. Our decision to stand by election-robber President Hamid Karzai ensures that Afghanistan will never have a legitimate government. Afghan security forces are corrupt, incompetent, and infiltrated by insurgents, and estimates that they may be able to operate without training wheels by2014 were arrived at with the aid of hallucinogens.
As for Pakistan, it’s even more of a security state than America. Pakistan’s army chief,Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, just strong-manned his prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, into extending his term for another three years. This makes Kayani even more powerful in his country than Petraeus is in ours.
By August 2009, shortly after McChrystal took command in the Bananastans, the war intelligentsia had stopped wasting oxygen on arguments that our circus in Central Asia had anything to do with our national security. Counterinsurgency shaman David Kilcullen, an adviser to both Petraeus and McChrystal, baldly admitted that counterterrorism was “not at the top of my list” of reasons we “need to persist” in the Bananastans. Among his top justifications, according to journalist Anne Gearan, were that the United States and NATO have promised protection to the Afghan people, that the future of the NATO military alliance could hinge on perseverance in Afghanistan, and that if Afghanistan crumbles, nuclear-armed Pakistan would probably follow.
Harrumph! Kilcullen needs the sharp edge of a stainless-steel hanky administered to the upside of his noggin. One of McChrystal’s last acts as top banana in Bananastan was to delay his much heralded Kandahar offensive because the locals told him they didn’t want his protection. As for Pakistan crumbling, we can rest assured that Gen. Kayani won’t allow that to happen, even if he has to stay in power six, 10, 15 years – whatever it takes!
That leaves us continuing to gush national blood and treasure over the Khyber cliffs to preserve a military alliance that hasn’t had a gnat’s whisker’s worth of relevance in two decades. This is the same NATO that presently provides troops to ISAF, the acronym for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan that, according to U.S. troops, actually stands for “I Suck At Fighting.” None of that keeps NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen from being “optimistic” about the Afghanistan project, though, and he says NATO will “not leave Afghanistan prematurely.” So I guess we have to stay too. If they stay and we leave, they might call our troops a bunch of sissies, and we can’t have that now, can we?
Last week the House of Representatives told the Senate they’d vote yes to $60 billion for more war in the Bananastans if the Senate voted yes to $20 billion for school districts and grants to low-income college students and security along our border with Mexico. The Senate sneered and told the House no to investing $20 billion into items of genuine national security and yes to throwing $60 billion at a war that is wholly contrary to our best interests. What a shameful indicator of America’s priorities.
Even worse, though, is the spine of the antiwar argument that insists we should withdraw from the Bananastans conflict because we can no longer support it economically. We became a global hegemon by dominating the rest of the world militarily. For us to continue to fight wars based on whether or not we can afford them is madness. It is difficult to imagine a need for us to fight any sustained armed conflict, much less one against an enemy that doesn’t have a navy or an air force or even a real army to speak of. If we ever encounter a war we truly need to fight, we can afford to fight it whatever the cost, but an old green penny is too much to pay for a war that isn’t necessary.
And it is clearer than ever that the most wrong thing Barack Obama has ever done, and likely will ever do, is to call our Chinese fire drill in the Bananastans a “war of necessity.”
We must stop putting up with the militaristic nonsense our elected officials continue to perpetrate. Here’s hoping the WikiLeaks bombshell helps blast us out of the ovine torpor we’ve been seduced into by the war mongrels who President Dwight Eisenhowerwarned us would take over our country if we didn’t keep them on a short leash.
* The Bananastans are Afghanistan and Pakistan, our banana republics in Central Asia.
** The Pentarchy is the Pentagon oligarchy that promotes the Long War agenda.
Super Dave Petraeus, newly installed as top banana in the Bananastans*, is practicing the exploding-cigar kind of diplomacy Dick Cheney and his cabin boys perfected during the Li’l Bush regime.
Following policies outlined by the neoconservative cabal in their September 2000 manifesto Rebuilding America’s Defenses, Dick and the Destroyers’ negotiations with Iran amounted to a bad practical joke. Making an unacceptable demand as a precondition to talks – namely that Iran give up its UN-guaranteed right to refine uranium for peaceful purposes – ensured that talks would never take place. When the Iranians refused to knuckle under to an outrageous demand, Team Cheney could say they tried diplomacy and it didn’t work, and continue to press for war.
Nothing has changed under the Obama administration; we’re still demanding that Iran give up its right to refine reactor-grade uranium, and it still refuses to cave in to what amounts to bullying on our part. And perennial AIPAC Shemps** John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham are still running around telling the world how we’ll go to war with Iran if we have to and that the U.S. Congress “has Israel’s back” in return for Israel maintaining the oldest established permanent floating campaign-finance racket in American history. So our animosity toward Iran is theoretically based on the threat Iran poses to Israel, even though, despite what the Ministry of Truth Network would have you believe, Iran can’t do anything to Israel militarily.
It’s little wonder then that one of King David’s first acts as praetorian governor of Central Asia ensured that peace talks don’t take place among the concerned local parties. As “senior officials” have told the New York Times, the Teflon General has introduced the idea of “blacklisting” the Pakistani warlord group known as the Haqqani network by having it declared to be another Club Terror affiliate. That would disrupt the peace coalition Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai is trying to form.
In one version of that coalition, Haqqani network leader Mawlawi Jalaluddin Haqqani would become Afghanistan’s prime minister. Given his connections, Haqqani could coax the Afghan Taliban into a power sharing agreement with Karzai’s government, and because of Haqqani’s close ties to Pakistan’s government, he could broker terms with Afghanistan’s neighboring archrival as well.
And good golly, we wouldn’t want that. If all those Bananastanis decide not to fight each other, then the only excuse we’ll have for staying there is that we don’t want to leave, and we don’t want to admit to something like that out loud. We like to at least cover our aggression with a fig leaf. Mom and the kids are watching, for heaven’s sake.
By now, everyone with a brain larger than a tea bag knows our so-called war on terrorism isn’t about terror. The only effect our war is having on terrorism is to enhance it by creating more terrorists. But even bona fide brainiacs are hard pressed to say what our war on terrorism is about.
Everything we’re doing now is as it has been since young Mr. Bush took office: in strict accordance with Rebuilding America’s Defenses, the neoconservative manifesto that said since we no longer had a peer military competitor we had better invade and occupy the entire world before somebody came along who could stop us (like the Vulcans, maybe).
Occupying Iraq was step one. It had little to do with Saddam Hussein; he was just a convenient excuse. The neocons weren’t concerned about weapons of mass destruction, and they didn’t give a gnat’s meow about terrorism. Iraq had enormous geostrategic importance, though. Located in the middle of the Gulf region and featuring easily navigable terrain, it offered a perfect bully base of operations from which U.S. land and air power could molest the rest of the Muslim world until kingdom come or the planet ran out of oil, whichever came first.
Ray “Desert Ox” Odierno floated his recent suggestion that the UN establish a long-term peacekeeping mission in Iraq with the prime neocon directive in mind. The present disarray of Iraq’s government provides a choice opportunity to slip into place a new UN occupation mandate that extends beyond the December 2011 deadline of the present status of forces agreement. And, naturally, the troops who fill the new UN mandate would be the same as the troops who filled the old UN mandate, i.e., U.S. troops. (Pretty clever, huh? Maybe we should start calling Odierno the Sly Ox.)
Now that Teflon General Petraeus is directly in charge of ensuring peace doesn’t break out in the Bananastans, Obama’s promise to limit our military involvement there is as bogus as a George Washington penny. The reasons the pentagogues*** keep feeding us for staying the course in the Bananastans are equally specious, but their true ambitions become clear when we again consider geostrategic bases of operations.
Iraq provides expanding lines of operations, interior lines of communications, and all the other operational artistry that goes with a central base of operations. The Bananastans provide us with exterior position. Exterior bases of operation provide converging lines of operations, and when we combine the land bases in Bananastan and Iraq with our maritime posture in the Indian Ocean, we have more than sufficient geostrategic leverage on Iran to squeeze it like the boil on a wicked witch’s forehead.
Now little old me figured this out, and all I have are myself and an iMac and two dogs for research assistants. The neocons have global networks of tank thinkeries staffed with multi-degreed career warmongers, so they’ve surely stumbled upon similar revelations, and this is without question the general scheme of operations they’re presently pursuing.
What I can’t figure out is how Pavlov’s dogs of war have managed to convince so many people that the Iranians are worth expending American national effort against. Their defense budget is less than 1 percent of ours. Their conventional air, sea, and land forces are strictly defensive in nature, unable to project power significantly beyond Iran’s borders and shores. Their ballistic missiles are unlikely to work properly in real conditions. Even if one of their missiles did work, it wouldn’t be worth shooting at anybody because the Iranians don’t have a payload worth wasting an expensive missile on. They don’t have nuclear weapons, and despite the dedicated efforts of Israeli-sympathizers in the CIA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and elsewhere to convince you otherwise, the Iranians don’t have a nuclear weapons program either.
One might attempt to build a blanket rationale for the American military to run rampant in Central and Southwest Asia by playing the oil card, but that’s bogus too. Neither Iran nor any other oil country wants to shut down the flow of oil from the Gulf. The people who have oil need to sell it as badly as the people who need oil want to buy it.
So what explains America’s seemingly unalterable aggression? History shows that some people will fight over whatever there is to fight over, and that if there’s nothing to fight over they’ll fight over nothing. People with this type of personality disorder typically get themselves put in charge of things like school boards and civic leagues, where they can be annoying to their hearts’ content but are relatively harmless.
What I haven’t puzzled out is how enlightened people allow the same sorts of lunatics to control the policies of mighty nations and wreak havoc on entire civilizations. Can someone please reassure me that leadership entails more than having a malignant ambition to destroy the universe and sufficient charisma to get away with it?
* The “Bananastans” are Pakistan and Afghanistan, our banana republics in Central Asia.
*** A “pentagogue” is a member of the “Pentarchy,” the militaristic oligarchy that aligns U.S. foreign and domestic policy with the priorities of the Pentagon. Also known as “Pavlov’s Dogs of War,” “war mongrels,” “the warmongery,” “Big War,” and “War, Inc.”
President Obama’s troop withdrawal deadlines continue to vanish like a blind dowager’s silverware.
At his June 15 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, “King David” Petraeus fainted like Blanche DuBois when inquisitors from both sides of the aisle tried to wedge him into saying that he thought President Obama’s July 2011 withdrawal date for Afghanistan was a moronic idea even though he fully supported it.
Petraeus didn’t take long to redeploy from his endorsement of Obama’s policy. At the June 29 confirmation circus that made him the new top Banana in the Bananastans*, Petraeus and his allies on the committee returned with a new script that was polished to a spit shine and loaded with combat-ready talking points.
Petraeus allowed to the committee as how poor old Obama, as elected official in chief, had to take into account sticky issues like campaign promises so as to suck up to the liberals who put him in office, the kind of thing real men like generals don’t have to worry about.
When ranking war pug John McCain asked Petraeus on cue if there had been “a recommendation from you or anyone in the military that we set a [drawdown] date of July 2011?” Petraeus took a beat and replied, “There was not.” To ensure that anyone who might have a shorter attention span than his got his point, McCain followed up with, “There was not – by any military person that you know of?” “Not that I’m aware of,” Petraeus answered. A regular Abbott and Costello, those two were.
McCain’s Mayberry-boy sidekick Lindsey Graham joined the act and told Super Dave, “This is all not your problem to fix.” The withdrawal date issue is a “political problem,” Opie opined. “Somebody other than you came up with this whole July get out of Afghanistan deadline, and I think it’s all politics. But that’s just me.” (Please, Paw, can we never have to listen to Lindsey Graham again ever? Please, Paw? Please?)
Petraeus decreed that July 2011 would mark the beginning of a “process” that would lead to a “responsible drawdown.” Petraeus said the 2011 date is not the date the U.S. will be “looking for the light switch to turn it off.” By paraphrasing Obama’s think-tanked statement that the U.S. would not be “switching off the lights,” Petraeus signaled that the president and his velvet junta generals are in rigid lockstep.
Counterinsurgency experts and other charlatans now guess that Afghan forces may be able to fight without bringing hired goons along by 2014, an estimate so optimistic that Pollyanna would look askance at it. Moreover, as Doyle McManus of the L.A. Times observes, Petraeus now says that the July 2011 date only applies to the 30,000 “surge” troops Obama approved last year, not to the 70,000 troops who were already there. Even at that, Petraeus says his support of withdrawing the surge troops will depend on “conditions that we hoped we’d obtain,” whatever on earth they might be.
On July 3, as he took command of the Bananastans theater of war, Petraeus declared that we’re in a “contest of wills” and our “clear objective” is to win. That’s super, Dave. So we’re in a contest to see if we have the will to stay in a country we don’t belong in longer than the people who do belong in it, and we’re committed to an objective that can’t be achieved because there’s nothing in Afghanistan to actually win. This follows the prime directive of the Long War policy; we can’t win any of our wars, but since the loser decides when the war is over, we can’t lose as long as we don’t quit, and since the other guys can’t quit, our wars can go on forever.
That’s the precise stratagem Petraeus used in Iraq, where he was so successful at not achieving the political reconciliation that the surge was supposed to enable that the Obama administration recently sent Vice President Joe Biden there to try to smooth things over. Talk about last-ditch efforts. Sending Biden on a diplomatic mission is like trying to douse a fire with lighter fluid. What, they couldn’t get John Bolton?
Meanwhile, our commander in Iraq, Ray “The Thing” Odierno, is floating the possibility of a UN peacekeeping force to replace U.S. troops in the country’s northern region where there’s no end in sight to the duke-’em-out between Arabs and Kurds. Odie has said some pretty dumb things in the past. It’s as if there’s no buffer between his medulla oblongata and his vocal cords; his ideas seem to spring from his deep subconscious and lunge straight into a microphone. At first glimpse, the notion that a brigade or so of UN sad sacks can accomplish what we have failed to do for seven years and change seems profoundly witless, even for the Desert Ox.
But under the surface is Ray’s on-the-record ambition – one that the rest of the Long Warmongers share – to delay the fat lady from singing in Iraq by keeping 30,000 or so U.S. troops in Iraq until at least 2014 (funny how that year keeps popping up). Nobody in the Pentagon took the December 2011 exit deadline in the status of forces agreement seriously when the document was signed at the end of 2008. Both Odierno and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen winked and nudged about how the agreement could be renegotiated, and Odierno smirked to reporters that “Three years is a very long time.”
There’s little doubt that the Pentarchs could have bullied the Iraqi government into extending the SOFA indefinitely. But as Biden’s recent bungled boondoggle to Iraq reminded everyone, Iraq doesn’t have a government for the Pentarchs to bully right now. It may not be able to form one by the end of 2011, and if it does it may not form a government as pliant as our military brass would like. So a possible fix is to see if we can get another UN mandate to stay in Iraq to protect those blue-helmeted peacekeeper bozos who will be the same I Suck At Fighting NATO allies we’re dealing with in the Bananastans.
The most recently telegraphed signal of the Pentarchy’s intentions came from Gen. George Casey, who was removed as commander in Iraq to make room for Petraeus and who was made Army chief of staff in return for stifling his objections to the Iraq surge. On July 9 Casey made a public statement that we are “likely to be fighting” in Afghanistan and Iraq for another decade “or so.”
Obama and his generals appear determined to drive America off a Khyber cliff, and you can bet the last dollar we borrow from China that the hawks in Congress, led by the ménage de guerre of McCain, Graham, and their gal-pal Joe Lieberman, will support the Pentagon’s “persistent conflict” until our nation goes splat at the bottom of the gorge.
*The Bananastans are Afghanistan and Pakistan, our banana republics in Central Asia.
“What, Me McWorry?” noted that by replacing Stan McChrystal with David Petraeus, Barack Obama has bought the Pentagon’s Long War agenda lock, stock, and pork barrel. “Helmand in a Handbag”discusses why it seems that our national security team is losing its woebegone wars on purpose.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal had ample reasons for wanting to get fired as top banana in the Bananastans*. The Marjah offensive that was hyped as the “test” of the Afghanistan strategy had, by his own admission, turned into a “bleeding ulcer.” He’d been forced to postpone the follow-on offensive to liberate Kandahar – called “the most critical operation of the war” – because the Kandaharis told him thanks anyway, but they were liberated enough for now. “It takes time to convince people,” McChrystal told his press entourage in early June, well aware that time was a commodity he was fresh out of.
Afghan troops, whom we’ve been training for nine bloody years, still woefully suck. A January 2010 60 Minutes piece noted that “elite” Afghan Special Forces were incapable of loading their rifles or even carrying them the right way. Once their Green Beret instructors helped them load and hold their weapons, the Afghan commandos quite literally shot their instructors and themselves in the foot.
A June report by the U.S. Special Inspector General in Afghanistan says Afghan soldiers rated by their American trainers as “first class” are, in fact, incapable of fighting the Taliban on their own. Petraeus says it could take a “number of years” before Afghan forces can fight without training wheels. British Foreign Secretary William Hague says, “The Afghan forces should be able to conduct their own affairs by 2014.”That would be the same 2014 that occurs significantly later than the summer of 2011, when President Obama promised he’d begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan. The good news: Afghan security forces are already as competent asIraq’s F Troopers will ever be.
As reported by journalist Michael Hastings in his celebrated Rolling Stone article “The Runaway General,” our NATO allies in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are a sorry squad of sad sacks as well. American soldiers mutter that ISAF stands for “I Suck at Fighting” or “In Sandals and Flip Flops.”
Throughout the command structure, our troops despair at the futility of their mission. Pfc. Jared Pautsch says, “What are we doing here?” Staff Sgt. Kenneth Hicks says, “We’re f***ing losing this thing.” A “senior adviser” to McChrystal, who didn’t have the courage to go on record like enlisted men Pautsch and Hicks did, says, “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular.”
(By the by, if freelancer Hastings doesn’t win a Pulitzer for his Rolling Stone piece it will be because the access-poisoned stenographers who cover the military full time for Big News pressured their pals on the committee into screwing him out of it.)
Nobody understands what the hell we’re doing there. McChrystal says, “Even Afghans are confused by Afghanistan.” And yet, remarkably, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said at a 24 June press conference, “I do not believe we are bogged down.” Gates does, however, believe in Santa. At the same propaganda opportunity, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen insisted that, “The strategy hasn’t changed in any way. Nor has the policy.”
It’s comforting, I suppose, to hear that our senior military officer understands that there’s a difference – or at least there’s supposed to be a difference – between policy and strategy. One is hard pressed to define what the difference between the two is exactly. Even the U.S. Naval War College, which has an entire department and curriculum called Policy and Strategy, is suspiciously ambiguous on the topic. “The Strategy and Policy Course is designed to teach students to think strategically,” our most prestigious institute of higher war learning vaguely explains. Maybe that’s why the brainiacs in charge of our national security have such a tough time coming up with coherent strategies that achieve national policy goals: too many of them studied at the Naval War College. Notable graduates include Ray “Desert Ox” Odierno and “Bananas” Stan McChrystal.
The Naval War College doesn’t say much about policy except that it’s something related to strategy. The Strategy and Policy Course probably doesn’t bother to teach students to think politically because the students who matter – future flag and general officers – already know how to think politically or they wouldn’t be on track to wear stars.
The policy/strategy model of armed conflict derives from the doctrine of 19th-century Prussian war philosopher Carl Von Clausewitz, who noted that “war is nothing but the continuation of policy with other means.” It’s not wholly clear, though, what Clausewitz means by “other means” of policy. The balance-of-power political model of the Europe he knew reflected millennia of nearly constant warfare as the primary means of settling scores among the continent’s cross-pollinated aristocracy.
The same holds true of post-World War II America. We’ve become so addicted to wielding our bully force to achieve – or rather attempt to achieve – our foreign policy objectives that our ability to affect global events with economy, diplomacy, and information has atrophied. That fact bodes ill given the white-elephant reality that without a peer military competitor our armed might has become an impotent tool of policy as well.
Our policy in Afghanistan can best be framed as Obama clinging to the campaign policy he made to appease the war mongrels that he’d “get the job done” there. If the “job” consists of ridding the country of al-Qaeda, we can declare mission accomplished. Al-Qaeda already left. In fact, it left before the Petraeus mob bullied Obama into firing the previous commander, David McKiernan, and putting career assassin McChrystal in his place. If the job consists of ridding the country of the Taliban, forget it. We’d have better success trying to eradicate the world’s insect population.
If the job involves extending the Pentagon’s Era of Persistent Conflict through the entire New American Century, then by golly we’ve got a strategy/policy match made in heaven. Gates and Mullen have admonished us to have more “patience” with a strategy that is proven to create more militants than it eliminates. Change merchant Obama, apparently determined to be the first man in history to do the same thing and achieve different results, promises there will be no change in the strategy or policy come Helmand or high water. And it looks like that stuff he said about a July 2011 withdrawal date was just a manifestation of his wacky, Second City-inspired Chicagoland sense of humor. “We didn’t say we’d be switching off the lights and closing the door behind us,” he told reporters after he sentenced Stan McChrystal to a life as a retired four-star general. “We said that we’d begin a transition phase.”
Petraeus puts things more bluntly. He now says that the July 2011 date only applies to the 30,000 “surge forces” that Obama approved last year. Even so, Super Dave will only support a drawdown based on “conditions that we hoped we’d obtain.” The Teflon General didn’t go into detail as to what those conditions might be.
In related news, the end of the “combat mission” in Iraq is scheduled for next month. Everybody knows Iraq’s Beetle Bailey security forces won’t be able to pick up the combat load and that U.S. troops will do as much fighting as they did before. Not to worry, though: Gates’ bull-feather merchants have figured out a way to meet the deadline. They’ll just change the name “combat mission” to “stability operations,” which I believe is synonymous in Pentagon Newspeak with “transition phase.”
* The Bananastans are Afghanistan and Pakistan, our banana republics in Central Asia.