Thursday, September 13, 2007

Post-Petraeus, Obama & Clinton Jockey for Antiwar Position

In the aftermath of General David Petraeus' stay-the-course presentation to Congress and as George W. Bush prepared yet another major speech-to-the-nation on Iraq, the top-tier Democratic presidential candidates each tried to position him- or herself as the potential commander in chief most in favor of removing U.S. troops from Iraq. But in doing so, can any of them score political points?

During Petraeus' multiple appearances on Capitol Hill, neither Senator Hillary Clinton ☼ nor Senator Barack Obama ☼ stood out when legislators questioned the Bush administration's pitchman for the war. When Obama and Clinton had their chances, each speechified against the war, without being too tough on Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker. But Clinton did toss more pointed queries at the pair than did Obama. Given the hype surrounding Petraeus's congressional testimony, Obama missed a chance to outshine Clinton as the Democrat best able to take on Bush's war. (Judge for yourself. See Clinton's performance here and Obama's here.)

But soon after Petraeus had withdrawn from the Hill, Obama and Clinton renewed the fierce competition over their antiwar bona fides. On Wednesday, Obama delivered a speech in Clinton, Iowa, in which he "unveiled" (as his campaign put it) a "comprehensive plan to turn the page in Iraq."

This plan essentially reiterates what Obama has been proposing since early this year: a phased withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. In January, he introduced legislation to start a pullout with a goal of redeploying all U.S. combat brigades by March 31, 2008. In his Clinton speech, Obama proposed the immediate withdrawal of combat troops at the pace of one or two brigades a month. That would lead to the complete removal of combat forces by the end of next year. Under the Petraeus plan, which Bush backs, U.S. troop levels are projected to be about 130,000 by next summer (the pre-surge level), with no guarantee of any decrease after that.

Though Hillary Clinton has vowed to extricate the United States from Iraq should she be elected president, she has not been as specific in proposing a date or schedule for the drawdown of troops. In July--in a speech in Des Moines--she released her Iraq plan "to end our military engagement in Iraq's civil war and immediately start bringing our troops home." One of her "first official actions" as president, she said, would be to direct the Pentagon and the National Security Council to create within the first two months of her administration a "clear, viable plan" to bring U.S. troops home. Like Obama, she called for a quick start to disengagement. Unlike Obama, she has not offered a target date for the completion of a withdrawal.

Both candidates have proposed new diplomatic and humanitarian assistance efforts in Iraq. Clinton wants to appoint a high-level U.N. representative to help broker peace among the factions there. Obama says he would call for a new constitutional convention in Iraq, convened under the auspices of the U.N., which would not adjourn until a new accord on national reconciliation is reached. (Send out for the mattresses!) But of the pair, only Obama can cite--as he did on Wednesday in Clinton , Iowa--a pace and a deadline for removing combat troops. His message could be (though he didn't say so): if elected president, I won't need to wait 60 days before coming up with a disengagement schedule.

The Obama camp is not making much of this difference. After his Clinton, Iowa, speech, two of his key foreign policy advisers--Samantha Powers and Sarah Sewell--spoke to bloggers in a conference call. I asked them how Obama's Iraq policy differed from those of other leading Democratic contenders, including a certain senator from New York. Neither raised the issue of troop withdrawals. Instead, they noted Obama's ideas for dealing with Iraqi refugees in and out of Iraq. He proposes providing financial assistance not just to the United Nations but to countries neighboring Iraq. While important, that part of Obama's speech did not come across as a candidacy-defining policy that separates him from the others.

Not to be left in any dust in the post-Petraeus phase, the Clinton campaign, about the time Obama was speaking in Iowa, zapped out an email to the media noting that Hillary Clinton had just sent a letter to Bush demanding that he "greatly accelerate the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq, and to bring so many troops home so much faster." In the letter, she did not refer to any target date for the completion of a troop drawdown. So between Clinton and Obama, the Illinois senator still has the more specific disengagement proposal.

But as Obama was speaking and Clinton was writing the president, former Senator John Edwards, the North Carolina Democrat fighting to stay close to Clinton and Obama in the polls, released a statement calling for the immediate withdrawal of 40,000 to 50,000 troops "to jump-start the comprehensive political solution that will end the violence in Iraq and will allow a complete withdrawal of all combat troops within 9 to 10 months." He blasted Obama for suggesting a slower pullout that would "essentially mimic the president's own plan to withdraw 30,000 troops by next summer." He called on Obama, Clinton and other lawmakers "to use every tool available to them, including a filibuster, to force the president to change course."

While the top-three Democratic presidential wannabes each advocate removing troops from Iraq, the question (at least, politically) is whether the differences in their positions will matter to any Democratic voters. Obama's plan for Iraq--as described in his Wednesday speech--does not resonate much more than Hillary Clinton's. And Edward's end-it-in-ten-months proposal shaves off only a few months from Obama's suggested timeline. Moreover, such details may not be relevant, considering that none of these folks would be able to implement any policy until 16 months from now. By then, the ground reality in Iraq could dictate a different response.

Still, this is what candidates do: propose future policies based on present situations that could well change. And they maneuver for political position. All of this, though, favors the front-running Clinton. Once upon a time Obama opposed the Iraq war and Clinton (as did Edwards) voted to let Bush start it. This week, there was little in Obama's speech that would not--or could not--appear in a Clinton speech (though Obama's advisers might argue otherwise). Until Obama delivers a speech that Clinton cannot deliver--on Iraq or any other major topic--he will have a tough time portraying himself as a necessary alternative to the leader of the pack.

The war, no doubt, is the issue Democratic voters care most about. And Washington Democrats are about to enter into another difficult period, during which they will have to figure out how to respond to Bush and Petraeus, as additional funding for the war comes up for a vote in the Democratically-controlled Congress. While that occurs, Obama and Edwards each will face a challenge of his own: convincing Democratic voters that his ideas about what to do next in Iraq set him apart from the front-runner and render him a better pick.


capt said...

More faked news?

capt said...

Bush's Speech: Treading Water


The surge was conceived of as a drive to take control of the streets, particularly Baghdad, in order to allow Iraq's elected politicians a safer environment in which to forge the vital compromises on issues ranging from reintegrating members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party into government and security structures to the sharing of oil revenues — in short, to negotiate their way to a stable power-sharing arrangement. That, quite simply, has not happened, nor is there any sign that it's likely to. The reason the politicians have failed to agree is not the violence on the streets; the violence itself is in most instances a symptom of the power struggles between Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions, as well as, in some cases, the internecine struggles for political dominance within those communities. The power struggle among Iraqis is nowhere near over.
1. So limited has progress been on the political front that the prime achievement the Bush Administration has been touting is the alliance the U.S. has struck up with Sunni tribal sheikhs in Anbar province against al-Qaeda. This is certainly an important tactical advance in confronting the jihadists in Iraq — although it's not entirely clear whether the greater shift has come from the sheikhs (long a backbone of both the Saddam regime and then of the insurgency), or from the U.S. in finally recognizing that the Ba'athists were open to cooperation against al-Qaeda. Although the fighters represented by the Anbar sheikhs made common cause with the jihadists for a time against the invader, the sheikhs have recognized that the Qaeda forces in their midst are doing them more harm than good.
But the groups with which the U.S. is cooperating in Anbar are not only outside of the Iraqi government; they are actively opposed to it, seeing it as a Shi'ite entity beholden to Iran. Such cooperation helps deal with the problem of al-Qaeda in Iraq — a brutal presence, to be sure, but still a minority element in the overall Sunni insurgency — but it doesn't necessarily reinforce national reconciliation.
If the U.S. is forced to make such local-level arrangements to deal with local-level problems, that's because the central government is an ineffective vehicle for the U.S. agenda, or, indeed, for any sort of governance right now. Having conceded to the principle of Iraqi sovereignty, however, Washington is in no position to change Iraq's government.


*****end of clip*****

Bush should be begging for forgiveness for being so fucking wrong and being such an abject failure - mark my words - he will speak of his victory which always translates into failure. Call it the reverse Midas touch.


Hajji said...

Maybe the "King Feces" touch?

capt said...

Men love their ideas more than their lives. And the more preposterous the idea, the more eager they are to die for it. And to kill for it.: Edward Abbey -


"COWARDICE, n. A charge often levelled by all-American types against those who stand up for their beliefs by refusing to fight in wars they find unconscionable, and who willingly go to prison or into exile in order to avoid violating their own consciences. These 'cowards' are to be contrasted with red-blooded, 'patriotic' youths who literally bend over, grab their ankles, submit to the government, fight in wars they do not understand (or disapprove of), and blindly obey orders to maim and to kill simply because they are ordered to do so-all to the howling approval of the all-American mob. This type of behavior is commonly termed 'courageous.'" : Chaz Bufe

The current moguls understand that true media power lies not in firing up our outrage, as Hearst did, but in befuddling it or tranquilizing it with new toys. The idea is to render us passive so that they can exercise their power to sell us a bunch of stuff we mostly don't need and mostly don't want.: Richard Schickel - Brill's Content, July/August 2000, p. 122


Thanks ICH Newsletter!

Gerald said...

Please listen to this homily from Bishop Gumbleton

This homily is a very beautiful message for true Christians.

Gerald said...

Why is it so difficult for some politicians, like King Newt, to give it a rest?

King Newt, your time has come and gone. Face the facts and reality!

Accept the fact that most Americans see you as a slimeball and go on with your fifth or eighth wife or fifteen mistress or whatever the number may be. You are a typical Nazi who cannot keep his hands off a woman.

King Newt, I will promise to vote for you if you come clean on the number of affairs you have had and to the number of women that you have been married to in your lifetime.

Gerald said...

King Newt, if you are upfront and honest, I will vote for you.

Gerald said...

Everything Hitler Bush does or touches is destroyed or dead

Gerald said...

Patraeus Report Means More Soldier Suicides

Gerald said... is not the problem

capt said...

Behind the Anbar myth

After the elaborate theatrics just performed in the house of mirrors of Washington, US President George W Bush is now recommending to the nation what he told top Iraq commander General David Petraeus to recommend to him. Only those paying more attention to the botched comeback of the "fat" lip-synching Britney Spears will be fooled by Petraeus, the iPod general - a player of what is fed by his master's voice, the White House.

The facts are stark: by next summer, and even next September
(two months before the presidential election), Washington will have the same number of boots on the ground (130,000) in Iraq's US$3-billion-a-week war that it had before the "surge", compounding - indeed amplifying - the existing ethical, political and strategic disaster.

Petraeus' key argument this week to prove his steering of the Bush-devised "surge" was a "success" was to spin the close collaboration between the occupation and the Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi government in Baghdad on the one side with Sunni tribal leaders in al-Anbar province on the other. Petraeus framed it as if this "sustainable" solution was a huge counterinsurgency success of his own making. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The success story in Anbar is not due to the general's wily ways, but to an Iraqi sheikh: Abdul Satter Abu Risha, the leader of a coalition of tribes, including 200 sheikhs, formed in the autumn of 2006 under the name Anbar Sovereignty Council (now it's called Iraq Awakening).

Asia Times Online talked to Abu Risha this past spring in Iraq. He explained, crucially, that he had set up the council after his father and two brothers were killed by al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers. Yes, it was personal. Petraeus then joined the bandwagon. Abu Risha is not, and never was, a Salafi-jihadi. He considers himself an Iraqi nationalist. He's not in favor of a caliphate. But he's definitely in favor of restored power to Sunni Iraqis.

Petraeus was indeed smart enough to marvel at the possibilities of a marriage of convenience between the occupation and Sunni tribes. Al-Qaeda for its part was clumsy enough to force "Talibanization" down Anbar people's throats. But this does not mean that Abu Risha and his 200 tribal leaders are pro-occupation, or even pro-Iraqi government. Eighty percent of these tribes are sub-clans of the very powerful Dulaimi tribe. Al-Qaeda's close relationship is with the Mashadani tribe, which used to be very close to Saddam Hussein. What matters is that with varying degrees of disgust, both big tribes detest the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad.

Way beyond any "success" claimed by Petraeus, what's happening in Anbar is once again a replay of what happened in eastern Afghanistan in 2001. Local tribes profit from US largesse - and weapons - and then proceed with their own tribal and/or nationalist agenda. What matters for all these players, most of all, is restoration of Sunni power. The Dulaimi tribe and sub-clans, armed by the Americans, as soon as they have a chance, will try to topple the US-sponsored puppet government in Baghdad.

Petraeus has not been able to seduce or bribe Sunni guerrillas. Far from it: leading groups such as the Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna, the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Islamic Front for the Iraqi Resistance make it very clear their enemies remain the US occupation, the Maliki government and al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers.

This summer, three of these groups - the 1920 Revolution Brigades, Ansar al-Sunna and Iraqi Hamas - formed the Political Office for the Iraqi Resistance, a public political alliance basically to throw out all of Petraeus's troops, block any collaboration with occupation-endorsed political institutions, and declare null and void any agreement between the US and the Iraqi government.

By this time, way into the "surge", Petraeus had certainly figured out that Anbar was not a relevant war theater anymore. He can use it to spin the "success" of his counterinsurgency methods, but he knows the three really relevant, internal wars in Iraq, for the near future, will be in Baghdad (between Sunnis and Shi'ites), in Basra (between Shi'ite militias, to see who gets to control the oil) and in Kirkuk (between Kurds and Arabs/Turkomans, for the same reason).

So why not spice it all up with some extra divide and rule - to justify an eternal US presence? Arming Sunni tribals in Anbar, under these circumstances, makes sense. The occupation does not need to fight Sunnis in oil-deprived Anbar. The Bush administration is now full steam ahead on fighting Shi'ites - both in Iran (the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps) and in Iraq (from the Maliki government to Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army). Shi'ites in both Iran and southern Iraq are sitting over a wealth of oil. The Sunnis are needed to advance this agenda.

A (minor) problem is what Iraqi Sunnis think of all this. According to the latest BBC/ABC News poll, no less than 97% of Iraqi Sunnis want a unified, centralized Iraq with Baghdad as capital. Only 56% of Shi'ites want it, not to mention only 9% of Kurds. No less than 98% of Sunnis are against the Maliki government. And no less than 92% of Sunnis are in favor of attacks against occupation troops, including, of course, all those Dulaimis now supported by the Americans.

Petraeus knows this: virtually no Iraqi Sunni wants to hug him and kiss him. They want the US out. But he also knows the US simply cannot go - what with the new mega-embassy, the secluded military bases, and all that oil.

The magic word "oil" mysteriously vanished from the whole drama performed this week in front of Congress. To get it, the answer is once again divide and rule - let's have those Sunnis and Shi'ites tear each other to bits while we "stay the course" pretending to protect them from themselves while trying to protect "our" oil. Bush's "surge" may indeed be a success - but for all the reasons the general would not dare tell the world.


David B. Benson said...

In the U.S., dam inspectors each have an average of 195 dams to inspect.

But even with only the recommended 50 apiece, that would be only one week per year for each dam.

on Scientific American, I believe...

capt said...

Meet Gen. David Petraeus

His Militia Strategy Plunged Iraq Into a Civil War, And Now He’s Back for More


In June 2004, Petraeus took the assignment of organizing training for all Iraqi military and police forces following their collapse during the Shiite and Sunni uprisings two months earlier.

During this period he was instrumental in forming government-sponsored militias throughout Iraq that operate as anti-Sunni death squads to this day, and which have plunged the nation into civil war. In the fall of 2004, Petraeus was arming, equipping and funding the Special Police Commandos, calling them “a horse to back.”

Petraeus said he aided them because, “I want to get the hell out of here.”

But rather than taking over the fight, the commandos (renamed the national police) have become another side in the war, operating as Shiite-run death squads. By early 2005 the 10,000-strong Special Police Commandos were reportedly disappearing, torturing and murdering Sunni men. Investigative reports detailed scores of incidents in which Sunni men who were detained by the commandos were later found tortured and killed. This death squad activity was going on under Petraeus’ command, and was a critical factor in turning the Sunni Arab community wholesale against the Iraqi government. His role in the $15 billion U.S. effort to train the 350,000 Iraqi security forces on the books is even more dismal.

Writing in the Washington Post in September 2004, Petraeus argued “18 months after entering Iraq, I see tangible progress. Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up.” He spoke glowingly of Iraqi leaders “stepping forward, leading their country and their security forces courageously,” and listed the various outfits that were being trained “to shoulder more of the load for their own security.”

Exactly one year later, as Petraeus was packing his bags to assume a new command stateside, of the nearly 100,000 Iraqi troops that had been “trained,” only one battalion was capable of independent combat operations. In June of 2007, with the latest U.S. escalation complete, all talk of Iraqi security forces “taking over the fight” has disappeared. And so have Iraqi units, which are plagued with a desertion and absentee rate of more than 25 percent.

These days it seems the only Iraqis in the fight are either in death squads or attacking U.S. forces. Just a few months ago, The New York Times reported that Iraqi police have been caught cooperating with insurgents planting improvised explosive devices used against Americans while Iraqi soldiers have been killed in combat against U.S. troops in Baghdad.


*****end of clip*****

I wonder what nickname Bunnypants gave Petraeus.


capt said...

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