Monday, February 09, 2009

Tom Ricks and the Neocons

Parts I, II and III of the “Ministry of Truth and Peace” series discussed how Pentagon propaganda operations represent the confluence of Big Oil, Big War, Big Bucks, Big Brother and the Big Schmooze in the new American century. Part IV examines how General David Petraeus and his followers are waging unrestricted information warfare on President Barack Obama’s foreign policy mandate.

Pentagon correspondent Thomas E. Ricks has become the center of gravity in the U.S. military’s information war on the American public.

On February 2, policy analyst Gareth Porter reported that General David Petreus, General Ray Odierno, retired Army general Jack Keane and others were preparing a campaign to mobilize public opinion against President Barack Obama’s pledge to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in 16 months. Keane co-authored, with fellow American Enterprise Institute neoconservative Frederick Kagan, “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq,” the January 2007 study that outlined the Iraq surge strategy.

The onset of the information campaign came close behind Porter’s forecast. On Sunday, February 8, Tom Ricks captured the airways and the headlines, appearing on Meet the Press as the first of his two part series on the stratagem behind the surge strategy appeared in the Washington Post. Ricks’s new book on the surge hits the shelves, not surprisingly, on Tuesday February 10.

Ricks gives us an astonishing insider’s look at the machinations behind the campaign to force a “long war” of indefinite occupation on Mr. Obama. Some of Ricks’s narrative sounds wholly credible, some reeks of Orwellian fabrication, and none of it constitutes objective reporting.

In his Sunday piece, “The Dissenter Who Changed the War,” Ricks paints a doubtful portrait of Ray Odierno as the “true father” of the surge strategy. It was Odierno taking all the risks, Ricks assures us, “bypassing his superiors” like General George Casey “to talk through Keane to White House staff members and key figures in the military” to make the case for escalating the Iraq war.

Odierno may well have gone around his chain of command; that was standard operating procedure in the Bush years. But given the cast of Machiavellians in this three-ring kabuki, it’s unlikely that big Ray was the kingpin. Odierno more suitably fits the profile of fall guy; he’s been the one making public statements about how the military will stay in Iraq longer than 16 months whether the commander in chief likes it or not, something that would earn a less politically connected officer administrative punishment at the very least. Petraeus has been, as always, circumspect on this subject. You’ll have to look very hard to find a written record of an insubordinate syllable passing Petraeus’s lips at any moment in his career. If Petraeus wants to trash a superior, he’s the type to have somebody like his pet ox Odierno do it for him.

The most telling part of Ricks’s version of the surge genesis is what it omits. Ricks makes no mention of the American Enterprise Institute, or of Fred Kagan, or of the neoconservative movement’s role in selling the surge to the public, an effort spearheaded by Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, FOX News, the New York Times, AEI and the Project for the New American Century.

On Sunday’s Meet the Press and in his Monday Post article, Ricks describes with often horrifying candor how Petraeus set out to pave the way for a “long war” that would last well beyond the Bush presidency. Petraeus needed time “not to bring the war to a close, but simply to show enough genuine progress that the American people would be willing to stick with it even longer.” That the surge has, as Ricks acknowledges, “failed politically,” is of little consequence.

The generals’ gambit, as Ricks explained it to David Gregory on Meet the Press, is “they feel they have made huge sacrifices, that they have had friends die and sons bleed, and that they don't want to throw that all away on the—you know, because some guy said on the campaign trail, ‘We're going to get all these guys out.’”

Thus did Ricks, wearing the beard of an impartial journalist, deliver the ultimatum for Petraeus, Odierno, Keane, Kristol, and the rest of the warmongery. Obama can either accede to the their goal, which is and always has been a permanent military occupation of Iraq, or be vilified as the wimp who betrayed the troops because of a campaign promise he made to get the peace pansy vote.

Ricks saved the punch line for the end of his interview with Gregory. “Iran has…its fingers throughout the Iraqi government. This is something that General Odierno mentioned several months ago and got in some trouble for, for talking about so publicly. Iran really does worry me in, in this situation.”

The Petraeus gang has been stacking the deck around the Iran card since the surge was unveiled in January 2007, leveling one accusation after the next against the Shiite Persian state to frame it as the point defense rationale for staying in Iraq. They haven’t proven a single allegation in all that time, but most Americans, numb by now from the constant bombardment of messages demonizing Iran, have accepted them as gospel truth. And, hey, if Tom Ricks is worried about Iran, shouldn’t the rest of us be worried about it too?

I knew Ricks had fallen like a schoolgirl for Petraeus when, in an April 2007 interview for NPR, he described the general as “a force of nature” and gushed, “He’s famous, for example, for his one-armed push-up contest against privates. You know—challenging a guy half his age to one-arm push-ups. But basically Petraeus [is determined] he’ll do one more than the other guy will, no matter how many the other guy does.”

Ricks was once the respected dean of the Pentagon beat. As of Sunday, he displaced Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times as chief echo chamberlain of the neoconservative junta. One can’t help suspect Ricks is at the top of the list to become Minister of Truth and Peace in the Petraeus administration. He has all the qualifications.

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. A wake up call in Washington?

    BWWAAA hahahahahahahhaha.

  2. Or just another wrong number?

  3. You had to see this coming.

    Gates saying "it's not time."

    Patreus at the Super Bowl.

    Ricks on MTP.

    It's all on schedule.

  4. EL,

    If only they could run their wars like they run their con games.


  5. Anonymous10:49 AM

    Another great post! Thanks Commander.

  6. Anonymous2:23 PM

    Heh. Pet ox, Odierno. Your killin' me, nay slayin' me! :)


  7. Anonymous12:45 PM

    Ricks is making the rounds. He was on TDS last nite and as usual Jon Stewart-a comedian-proves that he is by far a better interviewer in 5 min that any of the villagers are in 30 min.
    I have been under the impression that is was a LtCol or a Col who not only originated the idea of the surge, but came up with the Sunni awakining councils
    In your opinion, is Odinero going to go the same way that MacArthur did? Mac was very politically connected, yet Truman fired him. Is that in Ordineros future? After all he quite openly has drawn a line in the sand and dared Obama to cross it.

  8. Timr,

    Petraeus is the McA in this group. Big Ray is an expendable decoy.


  9. Jeff,

    After I read the Ricks series, especially the hagiography on Odierno, I knew something wasn't quite right. General Ray going around the C-o-C and getting "his" plan approved??? Going around the C-o-C -- check; "his" plan -- YGTBFKM! What really torqued me off about that article was the blatant, boastful C-o-C subversion; what the hell?! If it was a lowly O3 to O5 doing this, you can bet the flags would have them cashiered ricky-tick!!

    Thanks for highlighting this quiet river of dis-information. You articulated what was bugging me about all of it.

    No question the media campaign is underway to preserve both fronts in the WOT. But, given where Admiral Mike was pre- and post-CJCS, as well as Gates, I'm not so sure the Iraq angle will be executed as guys like Gen Ray and Gen Dave want. (Maybe they wnat the extension so some other general can be blamed for the inevitable loss???) And, if Taliban in Afghanistan are indeed headed into Mao's stage 3 (witness the bold Kabul attacks today), even if the generals get their way in Afghanistan, they are bound to lose.

    (And Ricks? Hmmm... no doubt his new book's arrival is merely coincidental? The question, useful idiot or willing tool?? I know where you stand on this! Guess that sabbatical year he spent at Leavenworth was "worth it".)


  10. SP,

    Ricks is both and much more. The book arrival is no coincidence. I'm guessing it was D-Day in the info operation Gareth Porter has been talking about.


  11. This is pretty incredible. the military brass resorting to blackmail to keep "some guy" (who answers to "Mr. President") from keeping a campaign promise? It sounds like these jokers have finally made the transition from MIC welfare queens to full-blown Praetorian Guards.

    I wonder, does this "long war" they're itching for herald a return of the military draft? If they've got Mr. O this tightly wrapped around their little fingers, it certainly seems like a possibility. (And he might not need the encouragement; the draft was a fixture during our last Great Depression...)

  12. Say it ain't so. I'm depressed. I thought "Fiasco" was a careful balanced account. Did I miss something? What happened?

  13. Anonymous2:33 PM

    Ignorant anti-war heads like Jeff Huber really piss me off, smearing Thomas E. Ricks like he does here. Either you want to know how the surge happened or you don't. And that means talking to neocons and career pro-war military officials who created it and those miltiary officials (like Gen. Casey) who opposed it, like Ricks did for "The Gamble." That is not impartial journalism, folks. It's called going to the heart of the genesis of the surge strategy.

    The other point here is that on p. 94 of "The Gamble," Ricks heads a section called: "ONE WEEKEND AT AEI CHANGES THE WAR." So there it is, folks! He did NOT ignore AEI and indeed go in depth into how meetings at the 12-story AEI building in December 2006 with Gen. Jack Keane, Fred Kagan and other pro-surge officials led to the surge.

    Should Ricks have mentioned AEI/Kagan in his WaPost piece? Yes. Why he left that out I have no idea. But to say Ricks IGNORES the AEI role in the creation of the surge when his new book clearly has lots of info on how AEI was instrumental in the surge shows ignorance on Huber's part.

  14. Now that I remembered my blogger account info, I am no longer "anonymous," so let me just add that I think Ricks was trying in his Odierno/"dissenter" piece to tell the story of the surge from the inside of the Pentagon and was misleading in calling him the "father" of the surge when his input is just half the story.

    Maybe the other half from the outside looking in - the AEI/Jack Keane surge debate and planning - will be in a future Ricks article. An excerpt of these meetings from Ricks' excellent new book as an article itself would be nice. If it isn't any time soon, it should be because the inside/outside connection, meaning Dick Cheney talking with Jack Keane, who talked to Ordierno/Petraeus regularly and met with AEI hawks, all in late 2006 is vitally important in explaining how the surge came to be.

  15. One more thing I found that puzzles me about Ricks' "dissenter" article on Odierno being the "father" of the surge is this quote from a 2/9/09 article he wrote in the WaPost: "...Gen. Jack Keane, his [Petraeus'] longtime mentor and an influential proponent of the new strategy for Iraq." Ricks also wrote in the dissenter article that Keane did "crucial coaching" for Odierno in regards to the surge.

    All this makes you wonder why Ricks, contrary to his own book, doesn't put Keane (and AEI) on par with Odierno as the most influential surge proponents in his recent WaPost writings. Has he gotten too close to Odierno? Possibly but I don't think so. But for now, it remains a mystery.

    So skip his WaPost articles on the surge and just buy the book ("The Gamble") instead. Then let the debate with Woodward's book (relating to the surge) begin (if it hasn't already)!

  16. As I state in my next article (above), all of the Odierno info seems to have come from Odierno.

    Ricks makes complete short shrift of both AEI, PNAC and the neocon movement in general, in essence covering their tracks, which is what they want.

    The Gamble's not to the AEI weekend is pure "balance" cover. Ricks is trying to make Petraeus and Odie the heroes.

    Oh, when you post in here, try to use the kind of language you'd use if you were speaking to strangers in person.