Friday, April 03, 2009

Raging Bull Feathers

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -- Voltaire

The propaganda war on the American public appears to have entered a new phase.

In a March 30 post at his Foreign Policy blog, Thomas E. Ricks wrote, “I thought some of the surge-era deals in Iraq would unravel but I didn't think that would begin happening this quickly. It's only March 2009, and already Awakening fighters are fighting U.S. soldiers in the streets of Baghdad.” Ricks cited a number of recent confrontations between members of the Sunni Awakening movement and Nuri al Maliki’s government and got all giddy about how he “wouldn't be surprised to see Moqtada al-Sadr's Shiite militia re-emerge.”

At the end of his blog, Ricks asks “Question of the day: What should I say the next time someone tells me the surge ‘worked’?”

Ricks will almost certainly say the same thing he’s been saying to Chris Matthews and David Gregory and Washington Post readers and everyone else who’s wasted bandwidth on him since his latest book came out: “General Odierno…would like to see 35,000 American troops [in Iraq] in 2015.” That is, after all, neocon message number one these days: Status of Force agreement and campaign promises be damned; the generals say we need to stay in Iraq so that’s what we need to do. And Ricks, along with the rest of the so-called liberal media, is falling all over himself to help the neocons echo it.

Ricks might also answer along the line of propaganda operations hinted at by a March 31 New York Times story that leads with “As the American military prepares to withdraw from Iraqi cities, Iraqi and American security officials say that jihadi and Baath militants are rejoining the fight.” Obama’s announced withdrawal timeline, goes the narrative, is what has caused the “new insurgency.” That’s a branch of the original story line that said once we announced a withdrawal date the evildoers would “wait us out.” (“Branches and sequels” are the parts of operational plans that describe what to do when things don’t go according to plan.)

The new narrative argues that Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki wants to mop up on the Sunni Awakening fighters while we’re still around to help him do it. As journalist Gareth Porter notes, Maliki has drawn us into a fight—possibly a long term one—with the very Sunni militants we bribed to stop fighting Maliki and us, and whose cooperation we previously credited for the “success” of the surge. In a saner American century, this would have been the camel straw, the signal that finally, for God’s sake, it was time to roll up our tents and bring our sideshow home, two-headed chicken and all. But in the present American century, where Newspeak and Doublethink have supplanted logic and reasoned discourse, it is all the more reason to stay. As in George Orwell’s 1984, we switch sides whenever necessary in order to keep the war going.

It’s quite possible that all our yesterdays in Iraq will have merely led that country back to the dusky state it was in before we invaded it. Having consolidated his power with backing from us, al Maliki is on the brink of becoming another Saddam Hussein. That too, in the hands of bull feather merchants like Ricks, will become a reason for us to stay in Iraq. We’ll need to keep Maliki from becoming a new Saddam Hussein, or to make sure he becomes a new Saddam Hussein who plays ball with us, or to overthrow the new Saddam Hussein and make sure the next new Saddam Hussein does or doesn’t become like the old new Saddam Hussein and/or the original one.

Don’t think that justifying eternal occupation of Iraq is a cakewalk, though. Using the country’s unraveling as the excuse for staying throws a torpedo into the myth of a successful surge strategy. So first, the spin merchants have to re-revise their own revised history, then they have to plaster over the gash they’ve made in the time space continuum.

Ricks led the charge in that sector of effort. In February, he told NBC’s Chris Mathews that “we have armed to the teeth many Iraqis” and have “trained up and organized a Shiite-dominated army” and “made friends with the Sunni insurgency, put them on our payroll,” so “there‘s a lot of gasoline that Americans have potentially poured on this fire” and if we leave Iraq “it will be much worse than it was when Saddam was there.” On Meet the Press, he told David Gregory “none of the basic problems that the surge was meant to solve have been solved.”

At first blush, that kind of talk doesn’t speak well of General David Petraeus, the Macarthur of Mesopotamia and, according to defense secretary Robert Gates, the “hero of the hour” who presided over the “remarkable turnaround” of Iraq.

Fear not, though, Ricks has King David’s back covered. According to Rick’s new book The Gamble, it wasn’t Petraeus or even neocon luminary Fred Kagan who invented the surge. It was General Ray “Desert Ox” Odierno, the guy Ricks earlier told us was the big dumb slob who made such a mess of things right after the fall of Baghdad with his 4th Infantry Division and caused the insurgency and the civil war and everything else that went wrong. Sometime after that, according to Ricks, Odie went through a “transformation.” An angel came unto him in the night and gave him an immaculate conception of what a counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq ought to look like, or something like that. The important thing is that when there’s anything good to be said about the surge, the warmongery can credit Petraeus (and to a lesser extent Kagan), and when it’s time to tell the truth about it, they can blame the oaf.

It’s important to maintain the illusion of Petraeus as “the best general in the Army,” which was how Ricks described him at the beginning of the surge. That’s because the warmongery needs Petraeus’s clout in mugging President Obama into further escalation of—and entanglement in—the war in the Bananastans. On April Fool’s Day, appropriately enough, Petraeus told a Senate panel that extremists in Pakistan ““could literally take down their state” if left unchallenged, thus endorsing John McCain’s initiative to send an additional 10,000 troops to the Bananastans on top of the 4,000 additional troops Obama just promised to send on top of the 7,000 additional troops he already promised a to send on top of the 38,000 troops already there.

Sadly, even if we have half a million troops in the Bananastans (like we did in Vietnam), they can’t accomplish anything without a coherent strategy, which they still don’t have despite the recent unveiling of Obama’s new Bananastan plan, the tenets of which sound like his policy team stole them from Scientology. The new strategy’s stated objectives include a “capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan” and a “stable constitutional government in Pakistan,” goals impossible to achieve without extraterrestrial intervention. Inexplicably, while these two aims would constitute the reengineering of an entire region’s social structure, presidential advisers who crafted the strategy maintain that it does not constitute nation building. Even more inscrutably, prominent foreign policy analyst Pat Lang agrees that the new strategy avoids “multi-decade nation building.” This observation suggests that Lang has been nipping at the Kool-Aid he accused so many of chugging during the Bush administration or that he’s suffering from the long-term effects of having been a military intelligence officer. It’s hard to say which; the symptoms are nearly identical.

The strategy’s objectives also include “Disrupting terrorist networks in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan to degrade any ability they have to plan and launch international terrorist attacks.” That might be achievable, but it’s not a goal worth pursuing. If evil ones can plan and launch terrorists attacks from a bleacher seat in the mountains on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, they can do it from the other side of the Van Allen radiation belt (and the North Koreans can put them out there now!)

The aspect of the new strategy I find hardest to believe is that none of the goals involve keeping the Islamofabulists from getting control of Pakistan’s nukes or the oil pipeline that runs through Afghanistan. Those are the only real national security concerns we have in that region, ones we can decisively address with military power by blowing up the nukes and the pipeline, declaring victory and bringing everybody home.

Alas, that would be counter to the real objective of the neoconservative agenda, which is progressive military entanglement. If you’re not yet convinced that’s what the war mongrels are after, take a look at what their most prominent pundits are saying about Obama’s new strategy. Bill Kristol cries, “All hail Obama!” Kritol’s partner Bob Kagan cheers, “Hats off to President Obama for making a gutsy and correct decision on Afghanistan.” Charles Krauthammer calls the Obama strategy one that you can imagine “John McCain having adopted had he been elected.”

This is the clearest signal I’ve seen to date that America’s collective brain activity has flatlined. Obama’s election was above all a national rejection of the militaristic adventurism of the previous regime. Yet here we are, not only continuing Bush era foreign policy but expanding it, and America is watching it unfold dumbly, like a dazed Jake La Motta, clinging to the top rope and rasping Come on, hit me. Harder.

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. Nato pact to send 5,000 troops for Afghan polls
    ...And few of the new troops - sourced from allies including Croatia, Portugal and Greece - are likely to serve in Helmand province where the fighting has been fiercest..

    So what do the goof troops get out of adventures in pipelinistan?

  2. "Goof troops," heh, that's very good.

    They--or rather their countries--get all sorts of little buddie bennies for letting themselves be bribed into sending their unemployed into a war zone.


  3. hmmm, sounds familiar lol

  4. Mark Ganzer3:45 AM

    "This is the clearest signal I’ve seen to date that America’s collective brain activity has flatlined. Obama’s election was above all a national rejection of the militaristic adventurism of the previous regime. "

    Equally clear signals in that most notorious of decades in a long-ago century, the 60's, were also given.

    The 1964 LBJ campaign featured the Daisy Girl commercial. LBJ wins in a land slide. 10-9-8-7 ...

    The parents and grand parents of American children, and the children too, lived in fear of "the bomb." They would not countenance Goldwater's finger on the trigger.

    In 1968, Richard Nixon ran (in part) on his secret plan to end the American war upon Vietnam. Upon taking office, none asked of the tricky one "Sir, where is your secret plan to get us out of Vietnam." Apparently it was so secret, everyone forgot about it.

    WHY wasn't that question asked, and asked again and again and again and again.

    And why isn't the parallel question asked of Obama, again and again and again and again.

    It was enough for Nixon to remove the ground troops. And then expand war bombing Laos and Cambodia.

    Precedents aplenty exist for expanding the once called "war on terror" into Pakistan (which indeed he told us he was going to do during his campaign) and for NOT leaving Iraq. There's a billion dollar embassy there, after all.

    Which is really about all one ever needed to know about the "U.S. government's" intentions of pulling the military out of Iraq, national rejection of the military adventurism of the previous regime and all be damned. It's not as if the U.S. is likely to honor its treaties, SOFA's included.

    Major General Smedley D. Butler's got it right.

    "For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out."

  5. Yes, Butler had it right.


  6. It's almost pleasently ironic to hear surge cheerleader Ricks lament the unraveling of political ceasefire in Iraq, if only the outlook weren't so dire. For those that believed that the surge was just a sideshow to the true machinations going on, this is an explosive moment, a moment where the curtain is drawn away, the smoke is blown off of the stage, and the true reality sets in. The reality that we have bribed one side, armed all sides, and somehow expected years of grievences and memories to evaporate. And as if that wasn't enough, we've now chosen to support Maliki and his ilk while they disarm and weaken their political opponents. Recipie for success? I'll let the readers here decide.

    This would be frustrating enough if it wasn't the only problem we faced. I covered a story last week on my blog that reported on the initial clashes between government forces and Awakening members in Fadhil. I think you'll find the author's description of the Sons of Iraq amusing:

    "The confrontation in Fadhil could be explosive if it leads to a split between the Shiite-led government and the Awakening Councils, made up of Sunnis who abandoned al-Qaida and joined forces with the Americans to fight the insurgents."

    That's right, class, the Sons of Iraq were actually al-Qaida traitors who joined up with Americans to fight Sunni insurgents! When main-stream media outlets like MSN cannot report simple, basic facts like these, there truth becomes obvious: that our supposed advocates in the press are either too ignorant, too stupid, or too lazy to provide American citizens with the information needed to make decisions about our nation's role in Iraq and elsewhere in the world.

    As a young sailor, it's hard to have faith or confidence in those sending us off to fight, or trust that the citizens we protect will be worthy advocates for us.

  7. Nugget, do you have a link to that story?


  8. We have always been at war with Eastasia... er, Eurasia... I mean, Commonsensistan!

    War(tm) is still our biggest industry. It's the real GM ("good for GM, good for the country") as far as our decision-makers are concerned.

    But you're right, the psy-ops media business continues without change.

  9. Jeff,

    The article is at the link below:

    I like how the byline reads "Baghdad". Do you think anyone who was actually in Baghdad would make a mistake like that?

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