The Surge’s Virgin Birth

Man, Jack Keane is working overtime to spin the history of the surge, isn’t he? Last week we saw Keane’s attempt to force Obama to adopt the insubordinate position of Generals Odierno and Petraeus. And today we see the product of a two-year plan to mythologize the origin of the surge: Thomas Ricks’ story describing Ray Odierno as the "dissident General" who birthed the surge.

Using the language of paternity, Ricks assigns ownership of this to Petraeus and–above all–Odierno.

The most prominent advocates of maintaining that commitment are the two generals who implemented the surge and changed the direction of the war: Odierno and David H. Petraeus, who replaced Casey in 2007 as the top U.S. commander in Iraq and became the figure most identified with the new strategy. But if Petraeus, now the head of U.S. Central Command, was the public face of the troop buildup, he was only its adoptive parent. It was Odierno, since September the U.S. commander in Iraq, who was the surge’s true father.

But there are problems with Ricks’ story. First of all, at least in this excerpt from his larger book, he mentions neither the Iraq Study Group nor the AEI-Kagan plan for the surge. Silence about the former leaves out the entire context of the decision to push a surge–not least Saudi pressure not to adopt the ISG’s recommendations. And silence about the latter leaves out a critical force in the generation of the plan; plus, Ricks describes the decision as happening shortly after December 19, after the AEI-Kagan plan was already released.

Ricks also offers no explanation for the critical motivating factor needed to claim Odierno was the father of the surge: how he came to reject his former strategic approach and adopt a radically different one.

Retired Army Col. Stuart Herrington, a veteran intelligence officer, concluded that the approach that many U.S. commanders used in the early days of the Iraq war effectively made them recruiters for the insurgency, and he was especially bothered by the actions of Odierno’s division. "Some divisions are conducting operations with rigorous detention criteria, while some — the 4th ID is the negative example — are sweeping up large numbers of people and dumping them at the door of Abu Ghraib," Herrington wrote in a 2003 report to Brig. Gen. Barbara Fast, the top Army intelligence officer in Iraq.

Odierno was determined to operate differently on his second tour of duty, but he will not talk about how his transformation occurred. "I think everyone’s changed," he said, brushing aside the question in one of a series of interviews in Iraq over the past two years. "We’ve all learned."

But one impetus, Odierno agreed, was the severe wounding of his son in August 2004. Lt. Anthony Odierno, then in the 1st Cavalry Division, had been leading a patrol near Baghdad’s airport when a rocket-propelled grenade punched through the door of his Humvee, severing his left arm.

"It didn’t affect me as a military officer, I mean that," Odierno said one evening in Baghdad much later. "It affected me as a person. I hold no grudges. My son and I talked a lot about this. He was doing what he wanted to do, and liked what he was doing."

But he said it did deepen his determination. "I was going to see this through — I felt an obligation to see this through. That drives me, frankly. I feel an obligation to mothers and fathers. Maybe I understand it better because it happened to me."

The most important factor in his change in thinking, however, was probably his growing belief, as he prepared to redeploy to Iraq, that the United States was heading toward defeat. [my emphasis]

Remember, we are trying to explain why Odierno went from being an overly aggressive general to one basically following Petraeus’ admittedly smarter approach to counter-insurgency. Odierno refuses to explain what brought about this change of thinking! He won’t say, for example, who persuaded him his earlier strategy was making insurgents, not defeating them. He simply says he learned–a virgin birth of knowledge akin to the virgin birth of the surge itself. And, to cover up for the fact that we’re talking a really radical transformation of thought that he can’t explain, Ricks seems to offer up reasons for Odierno to agree with. "Odierno agreed" apparently in response to Ricks’ prompting, "one impetus … was the severe wounding of his son." But that doesn’t explain his change of thinking, it explains only Odierno’s change in determination. Likewise Odierno’s change of determination as he came to believe we were losing (though Ricks doesn’t even attribute that explanation to Odierno directly); that’s not the same as a change in strategic philosophy.

There’s another problem with the story Ricks tells. Its chronology doesn’t entirely make sense and in key ways completely contradicts the narrative Woodward told in his book on the same subject. Ricks places Odierno’s conception of the surge to fall 2006 (Odierno didn’t get back to Iraq until December 2006).

So that fall, he became the lone senior officer in the active-duty military to advocate a buildup of American troops in Iraq, a strategy rejected by the full chain of command above him, including Gen. George W. Casey Jr., then the top commander in Iraq and Odierno’s immediate superior.

Communicating almost daily by phone with retired Gen. Jack Keane, an influential former Army vice chief of staff and his most important ally in Washington, Odierno launched a guerrilla campaign for a change in direction in Iraq, conducting his own strategic review and bypassing his superiors to talk through Keane to White House staff members and key figures in the military. It would prove one of the most audacious moves of the Iraq war, and one that eventually reversed almost every tenet of U.S. strategy. [my emphasis]

Odierno’s decision to push for a surge probably post-dates Keane’s lobbying for it. Not only does Woodward describe Keane–having already discussed the issue with Newt Gingrich and written up a fully-developed plan on a yellow legal pad–presenting his concerns to Rummy on September 19. But Ricks suggests that Keane already had well-developed doubts about US strategy by the time Odierno spoke to him.

In Washington, Keane had his own doubts about U.S. policy and was not shy about expressing them. More influential in retirement than most generals in active service, he allied himself with Odierno, advising him to ask for five new brigades. But when Odierno raised that number with Casey, his commander dismissed the notion. "He said, ‘You can do it with two brigades,’ " Odierno recalled. "I said, ‘I don’t know.’ "

Plotting with Odierno, Keane bypassed the Pentagon and called the White House, which he had already been lobbying for a troop surge. "Just think about what’s going to happen," he told national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley. "You are not going to be effective in bringing down the violence with only two additional brigades, therefore you will call for an additional brigade three separate times, each time because we do not have sufficient troops. The media will be all over you for failing three more times. Meanwhile, the president is going to bite this bullet; he should only bite it once. He shouldn’t bite it one time and then three more times."

Throughout that fall, Keane recalled, he had "a continuous dialogue" with Odierno. "He knows he needs more troops; he knows the strategy has got to change. His problem is General Casey."

The way Woodward tells it is, Bush–and Stephen Hadley–were thinking of a surge before Odierno suggested it. They "had already concluded that a surge was the way to go" at least by October 2006 (my emphasis) at a time when Ricks describes Odierno–a "dissident General" who just happens to espouse the policy his Commander-in-Chief has already decided upon–was still lobbying for the decision. Rather than Odierno’s (and the every-present Keane’s) lobbying, it just took months of work from Hadley to bring everyone around to Bush’s thinking.

Hadley was more satisfied. He had figured out where the president wanted to go and had brought everyone around to that view. Bush had not adopted the stepping back suggested by Rice and her colleagues. He had rejected the pessimism of the CIA and various versions of a drawdown favored by Rumsfeld, Casey, the chiefs, the Iraq Study Group and most Democrats. Forcing consensus was an art form, Hadley believed, and he had worked it.

A more clear contradiction, Woodward describes Bush decided in favor of a surge by mid-December, certainly before Ricks describes Gates deciding it sometime after December 19.

According to Hadley, that moment [when Bush decided in favor of a surge] had come when the president called him in mid-December 2006 and said, "I’m getting comfortable with my decision, but I don’t want to give a speech yet.

So Woodward places a preference for a surge to before Odierno was lobbying for it, a decision on it for the same time his lobbying hit high gear (and still before he went back to Iraq), and a final decision before Ricks describes a final decision. 

The contradiction between Woodward’s account and Ricks’ account is one Ricks acknowledges.

In a recent interview, Odierno expressed surprise that a book by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, published just as Odierno took command in Iraq, credited White House aides and others in Washington with developing the surge. From Odierno’s perspective — and that of many other senior officers in Iraq — the new strategy had been more or less conceived and executed by himself in Baghdad, with some crucial coaching from Keane in Washington.

"We thought we needed it, and we asked for it and we got it," he said, referring to the strategy. "You know, General Petraeus and I think . . . I did it here, [and] he picked it up. That’s how we see it. And so it’s very interesting when people back there see it very differently."

Of course, Odierno said, ultimately Bush had to make the policy decision, and some White House aides encouraged that step. But, he continued, "they had nothing to do with developing" the way it was done. "Where to go, what [the soldiers] would do. I mean, I know I made all those decisions."

Of course, deciding where to go and what soldiers would do (decisions which Woodward describes Keane as having in hand on September 19) is different from deciding that a surge is the way to go. 

Mind you, I don’t think Woodward’s story is accurate either; as I’ve pointed out Woodward presents the utterly implausible claim that Cheney was not involved in any of these discussions until December 2006, even at a time we know the Saudis were kicking his ass to push a certain policy, and in an Administration where Cheney always, in unseen fashion, directed the overall strategy. And since Woodward’s description of Hadley’s and Bush’s thinking relies on an interview that post-dates the surge, I think it likely that they were owning a policy that looked reasonably successful after the fact. So I don’t think Woodward’s story is any more believable than Ricks’ story. Rather, I think both are propaganda pieces designed to hide the true mother of the surge strategy–the story that explains how Keane turned into the champion for this strategy.

And as propaganda, Ricks’ story bears an important structural similarity to Woodward’s work: his willingness to report "news" as history at such a time when a new narrative is needed. 

This account of the military’s internal struggle over the direction of the Iraq war is based on dozens of interviews with Odierno, Petraeus and other U.S. officials conducted in 2007 and 2008. In many cases, the interviews were embargoed for use until 2009.

Which ones, Ricks? Which ones were embargoed until after a new President took over? Respectability demands that you reveal that, at least. If you’re going to take on Woodward’s role of chief propaganda outlet, with all the rules Woodward acceded to, then you ought to at least tell us who demanded this timing, the release of an implausible hagiography of Odierno and Petraeus just as they start a Keane-led campaign to undercut the new Commander-in-Chief’s strategy.

Which brings us back to Jack Keane–the guy seemingly orchestrating both Woodward’s narrative and Ricks’. As I’ve said, I don’t think Keane is the one ultimately driving all this propaganda, at least not all by himself. But it’s clear that, thus far, Keane is the author of the surge’s virgin birth.

84 replies
  1. JEP07 says:

    Remember what happened to Generals who were “insubordinate” to Bush? When they told him the truth (they were eventually proven correct) and it didn’t fit the delusion, they got F I R E D! Or invited to resign. Some were actually called “unpatriotic.”

    Now we are engaged in a great change of leadership, with a President SEEKING the truth, not more support for delusions, and these insubordinate Generals should all be F I R E D! Or invited to resign.

    And not just because Bush did it to Shinseki et al, but because it is, this time, the right thing to do. Kick their insubordinate, medal-crusted asses out the back door, and replace them with loyal Americans.

  2. Arbusto says:

    As General MacArthur may have said, old Generals don’t die, they become unregistered lobbyists. That todays Flag Officers still look at Iraq as Victory vs Surrender or win/lose shows the need for some major culling in the ranks. DoD ideologs vs Shia ideologs in the Middle East is a lose/lose proposition and someone needs to make sure Gates, Clinton and Obama know that.

  3. scribe says:

    Keane’s the midwife on this one. As to all the members of this cabal, one has to wonder where and how they came to know of each other. I would bet that, somewhere in their careers, they served together – either in a school setting or in a unit. In either context, they would have come to know each other and have had the opportunity to be sounded out, between spoons of soup, as it were, as to whether each would be a reliable member of a cabal.

    Also, I have to wonder where Col. McMaster fits into this. Remember, he was the author of a book (”Dereliction of Duty“), in which he argues that the JCS should have been more forceful (also spelled “insubordinate”) with LBJ over winning in Vietnam.

    His is the old lament that the damn politicians get in the way and keep us from winning, a fundamentally insubordinate attitude that is the breeding ground of mutinies and coups. After all, the military is supposed to work for the politicians.

    Also, per Amazon McMaster has a new book out: “Ideas as Weapons” From the looks of the review and the co-authors (who are seriously spooked-up), this is a blueprint for those controlling the military to use the NSA and other databases to rule.

    Frankly, at this stage, we have a situation where the military is in control – every mouse-click, every phone call, every move of your cell phone, every credit card charge, every check, every bank transaction, every prescription, every move of your car and (if Obama’s plan to computerize health records goes through) every visit to the doctor and what for will be available instantly to the military. Remember, they run the NSA. The real question is “Who is really in charge of the military?”

    • scribe says:

      To elaborate a little on this, remember that after publishing his first book, McMaster was singled out to be a member of Petraeus’ staff for the surge.

      And, to me, it’s Deadeye who’s playing the Fred MacMurray role from “The Caine Mutiny”, fomenting the cabal of generals to be insubordinate to Obama, while staying clear of chargeable conduct.

    • behindthefall says:

      As to all the members of this cabal, one has to wonder where and how they came to know of each other. I would bet that, somewhere in their careers, they served together – either in a school setting or in a unit.

      In a Len Deighton novel, someone would walk this cat back, but who would do it in reality? This suggestion may be related to something that’s bothered me: somewhere, sometime, some one of these people must have written out their true intentions. Where is that?

    • MadDog says:

      …Also, I have to wonder where Col. McMaster fits into this…

      One major minor correction – it’s General McMaster now:

      Promotion controversy

      McMaster was passed over for promotion to brigadier general twice in a row, in 2006 and 2007.

      The US Army released the next list on 15 July 2008, and McMaster was among the officers nominated for promotion to brigadier general. The list also indicated that McMaster will be taking the post of Director for Concept Development and Experimentation, in the Army Capabilities Integration Center at Fort Monroe, VA, part of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

      Note how that all the “back-channel” Cheney boys (Petraeus, Odierno, McMaster and probably more) got promotions. Guess who’s running our Army now?

        • MadDog says:

          Much has already been written about Petraeus back-channeling via retired former Army Vice Chief of Staff Jack Keane, and also then directly to the White House, including to Cheney, bypassing both the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

          Bob Woodward, as EW has identified, is one of a number of folks who described how Petraeus worked that backchannel directly.

          McMaster was Petraeus’ executive officer in Baghdad when Petraeus took over command of MNF-Iraq.

          • scribe says:

            This is a rather important point.

            If, as MadDog says, McMaster was the “Executive officer” for Petraeus when he went in to MNF-IRaq, that places him in a very different position than merely being on his staff.

            In the Army, there are two kinds of “executive officers”. The one most commonly encountered is the second-in-command. The senior lieutenant in a company, second-in-command to the captain commanding it. In a battalion, the major who is second-in-command. Most people, to the extent they might think of it, would assume that is the only definition of the term.


            The obscure kind of executive officer is the one who is located at and a part of high-level staffs such as a regional command, the Pentagon, or MNF-Iraq. That executive officer is so named because he executes (and makes sure others execute) directives from the commanding general. In those high level staffs, the second-in-command is commonly called a “vice commander”, “deputy commander” or something similar. That second-in-command is also a general officer and, as such, is beyond normal paperwork and routine bureaucratic duties, among which are considered “making sure things get done”. The commanders and deputy commanders have other jobs – riding herd on their immediate subordinate commanders, making friends and influencing people both in host countries and higher up the politico-military chain, and devising battle strategies and plans for the battles coming a couple days, weeks or months in the future.

            This is where the “Executive officer” of the type McMaster was, would come in. He is considered the amanuensis of the commander for whom he works. A commander can have more than one, depending on the mission and how the commander wants to organize. His job is to lean on subordinates to make sure things work – in accordance with what the commander has set forth as his guidance or orders. Often, those orders or that guidance is relatively general and not much detail is produced. In that case, the executive officer takes the general policy set forth in the orders or guidance and fleshes out the details. In so doing, of course, he can interpret the policy (within bounds) to meet his own requirements. While he has access to the commander when and how he needs it, he operates pretty independently.

            This is in contrast to the aide-de-camp, who is close to the general all the time and responsible for setting up for the general’s personal needs, ensuring the general’s personal staff takes care of things, schmoozing, and making things move smoothly. You will see people from prominent family histories with all the social graces being appointed as aides-de-camp. If you’ve ever watched the movie Patton, you’ll note a lieutenant colonel who early in the movie is assigned to Patton and speaks with him in rather urbane French, and they talk about arranging a dinner to sell Montgomery on Patton’s plans for Sicily. That person (actually a composite character and not representing any particular one of Patton’s aides) is an aide-de-camp.

            The Executive officer is the troubleshooter and enforcer. He is a man not to offend, as he can destroy careers (or even arrange to have you sent into missions where you’ll be killed) with a casual “well, he’s not carrying the ball too well, lately” or some similar easy slander or damnation-with-faint-praise. This is a job which is assigned to officers being groomed for high command.

            By comparison, Libby, Addington, or Hadley all were “executive officers” to Cheney.

            The facts that McMaster – also the subject of extensive reporting for his combat leadership commanding a cavalry troop during Gulf War I – was passed over twice for promotion to brigadier general and yet not only got to stay in the military (twice passed over means “out” for mere mortals) but then was later promoted to brigadier general, should tell you something about not only the level of political suck (and utility to others) he has, but also about how riven with politics the Army appears to have become.

            Time was, the Army promotion system was designed and operated to eliminate political influence over promotions. That an officer could be twice passed over, retained nonetheless and then promoted on the third try tells me that the apolitical and anti-political controls built into the system have been dismantled.

            And that, folks, is a bad thing. Because pretty much every general on active duty today was promoted into that rank by and during the Bush administration.

            • stryder says:

              No wonder I was sent back out to the jungle when I spit on a general’s shoe.
              Obama should try it.It’s a very gratifying experience

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Who would have thought that five deferment-Dick would take such an interest in military strategy after he was too old to be consumed by it? Who would have thought he would devote his retirement to trashing – behind the scenes, of course – any successor who deviated from The Plan, and who might have the authority and will to uncover acts suitable for investigation by a federal or international prosecutor? Personally, I think Mr. Cheney would look good in an orange jump suit.

  5. Leen says:

    Would have been no need for a “surge” if the Bush/Cheney/AEI thugs would have listened to Shinseki, Powell and Jay Garner. Lots of folks would still be alive.

    Keep thinking about the young man who I stood next to during the inauguration who had returned from Iraq six months ago. His job in Iraq was putting dead soldiers in body bags before they were shipped back to their families in the states. I asked him “what do you think about that war now” after spending almost half of his time there filling body bags. His response “will do everything in my power to try to make sure no other young person goes to a war based on lies” (he had joined the military soon after 9/11 believing the lies that Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice etc were repeating all over the MSM.

    We talked about the 5 million Iraqi refugees, the injured Americans and Iraqi people. He said “for the first time in his life he understood why so many people around the world hate us” He also mentioned how many returning and injured soldiers feel ignored by the media and the American people.

    Sure Odiermo’s attitude changed after his son was seriously injured
    “Odierno was determined to operate differently on his second tour of duty, but he will not talk about how his transformation occurred. “I think everyone’s changed,” he said, brushing aside the question in one of a series of interviews in Iraq over the past two years. “We’ve all learned.”

    But one impetus, Odierno agreed, was the severe wounding of his son in August 2004. Lt. Anthony Odierno, then in the 1st Cavalry Division, had been leading a patrol near Baghdad’s airport when a rocket-propelled grenade punched through the door of his Humvee, severing his left arm.”

    ##If Feith, Cheney, Bush, Rice, Hadley had had family members that they would have been sending off to a war based on a “pack of lies” they might have dealt with the situation differently.

    A real problem is when the powers that be are unable to truly put themselves in the shoes of others who they sent off to their fucking immoral and illegal war in Iraq.

    #After Woodward was out actively undermining Fitz’s investigation into the outing of Plame, tough to trust anything this guy has to report

  6. Leen says:

    INjured American soldiers or the Knock at the door

    PBS’ NOW: The Cost Of War – A Soldier Returns Home
    Most severely wounded’ GI endures…..ed_070624/…..enese.html

    Iraq’s Shocking Human Toll:

    About 1 Million Killed, 4.5 Million Displaced, 1-2 Million Wi



  7. Teddy Partridge says:

    Nothing wrong with Jack Keane that a swift, just, and comprehensive court-martial won’t fix.

    He’s been Cheney’s snake long enough. Time for him to “fade away.”

  8. Mary says:

    Ok, while they are all fighting for Surge Sarge title, where are the guys lining up to take credit for the concept of buying off the Sunni insurgents?

    I don’t actually care much if generals are going to engage in active disputes about what they think the policy direction should be – insubordination can be tossed around too easily IMO, since they have a duty to the Constitution and to not only American citizens in general, but to American families who have lent the military their sons and daughter, all in addition to their duties to a CIC.

    What I do care about very much is the propagandizing, revisionist aspects, etc. No way should Ricks and Woodward be collecting “exclusive” info on these kinds of things. If Odierno wants to talk – he should have to do it out front, answering questions from all quarters and not just plants from Ricks, and including answering publically for the Iraqi people he was directly responsible for abusing during his “sinner years.”

    All this pussyfooting and planting stories etc. is the problem IMO, much more so than generals trying to argue one way or another for what they think should happen. Sure generals could and should be able and willing to argue their positions IMO, as long as they ultimately follow orders and do a good job. But for guys who did a very bad job to gather up a propaganda/psyops apparatus to sell themselves and sell a forever war that benefits Boeing and Lockheed while decimating national goals and commitments – that’s not great.

    His son’s story is sad and galvanizing. How much more so the stories of those who die without proper healthcare in this country, whose parents don’t have the consolation that the losses were incurred by any element of choice, but rather by one of redirection of national wealth away from domestic populations and to the pockets of war purveyors?

    If he wants to spin his story, he should have to do it in the open, subject to in depth cross from those who don’t constitute his hand picked audience. That is the “insubordination” imo- the contempt shown for the people by the use of a propaganda against them.

    • Leen says:

      “he should have to do it out front”

      Have spent a great deal of time in a V.A. hospital this year with my pops who is a WWII vet. Get a solid lump in my throat and tough to stop the tears when I think about the conversations and stories that I have heard from mostly young men with missing limbs who fill the waiting areas at the V.A. Getting sick to my stomach again thinking about it.

  9. Mary says:

    5 -Cheney and the Dems in Congress have kind of de facto answered your last question IMO. War is a corporate fund raiser.

    • Leen says:

      “War is a corporate fund raiser” Damn Mary you do have a way with words and more importantly empathy and compassion. Did I forget to mention your passion for justice. Thanks

  10. tanbark says:

    The real “Daddy” was that million bucks a day to the Sunni insurgents.

    And there have been some recent firefights when people were trying to remove some of the concrete barriers that have turned Baghdad into a rat’s maze of ethnically cleansed neighborhoods.

    Now that the money is being “disbursed” by Maliki (if at all) we’ll have to wait to see what’s next.

    But the surge did work. It let bush and the creators of the loon-crusade get the fuck out of Dodge while dumping it in Obama’s and the dems laps.
    And Petraeus and Odierno need to be reassigned within 6 months, latest…preferably, sooner. There are plenty of generals who won’t sugar coat the fact that when the lid comes off, what’s left is not going to be user-friendly to us…whether it’s 18 months from now or 18 years from now.

    • LabDancer says:

      “But the surge did work. It let bush and the creators of the loon-crusade get the fuck out of Dodge while dumping it in Obama’s and the dems laps.”

      That’s it: TEH SURGE is of singular importance as a means to spin a Republican administration’s monumental fuckup into hanging around the neck of it’s Democratic inheritor.

      In service of that goal, TEH SURGE has some particularly insidious features:

      [1] How better to argue the absolute absence of anything approaching a draw-down–which could be argued as showing consciousness of ‘defeat’ and failure–than to UP the troop numbers?

      [2] How better to argue Dems are hapless–even dangerous–on national security, than to have the media cover the nation’s ‘disgrace’ of pulling out during a Dem administration [a refinement suggested out of the experience in Viet Nam]?

      [3] How better way to hobble meaningful debate over Iraq than–as McCain showed willing at doing–to start each by throwing up the Success of the Surge & when the Dem opponent fails to salute, to accuse the Dem opponent of unreality & lack of seriousness, thereby closing off any possibility of it moving to indefensible ground?

      [They must be particularly pleased with the power in TEN SURGE’s added extra ‘bull low’ reverse gear: throw the debate into the TEH SURGE gear early enough hard enough & the entire debate runs out of momentum & time well before it gets to the origins of the enterprise.]

      Methinks there are additional instructive features suggested from this analysis by Fearless Leader:

      Does it appear the role of Joe the General — er, Odierno — in Teh Surge is being upgraded to a significant degree as the role of General Douglas Mac…– er Petraeus is being down-graded, i.e. at the ‘expense’ of the latter?

      What does that say about the anticipated willingness of the respective officers to play a role in the coming spin of the impending disgrace [TEH SURRENDER]?

      On their respective willingness to accept the new president’s orders?

      On their respective career ambitions &/or personal assessments thereof?

      Does it suggest one has scoped the near future & chosen to cast this stretch of his career to be viewed as biting his tongue, formally loyal within the chain of command structure, including the Constitution — while the other is still very much weighing an impending & even more cartoonish type of insurgency?

      • macaquerman says:

        It seems to indicate that Petraeus chooses to remain in miitary service and that he was not available to serve as Keane’s tool.
        Now, Keane and co. are trying to build a better image for Odierno in the hope of using him.

  11. MadDog says:

    And EW, don’t you find it conspicuously “interesting” that the WaPo’s Tom Rick’s pens this fawning paen to General Odierno this weekend after Gareth Porter’s report earlier this week said:

    Generals Seek to Reverse Obama Withdrawal Decision

    CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, supported by Defence Secretary Robert Gates, tried to convince President Barack Obama that he had to back down from his campaign pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months at an Oval Office meeting Jan. 21.

    But Obama informed Gates, Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that he wasn’t convinced and that he wanted Gates and the military leaders to come back quickly with a detailed 16-month plan, according to two sources who have talked with participants in the meeting.

    Obama’s decision to override Petraeus’s recommendation has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including Gen. Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun to try to pressure Obama to change his withdrawal policy.

    A network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilising public opinion against Obama’s decision…

    …The opening argument by the Petraeus-Odierno faction against Obama’s withdrawal policy was revealed the evening of the Jan. 21 meeting when retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, one of the authors of the Bush troop surge policy and a close political ally and mentor of Gen. Petraeus, appeared on the Lehrer News Hour to comment on Obama’s pledge on Iraq combat troop withdrawal.

    Keane, who had certainly been briefed by Petraeus on the outcome of the Oval Office meeting, argued that implementing such a withdrawal of combat troops would “increase the risk rather dramatically over the 16 months”. He asserted that it would jeopardise the “stable political situation in Iraq” and called that risk “not acceptable”…

    …The source says the network, which includes senior active duty officers in the Pentagon, will begin making the argument to journalists covering the Pentagon that Obama’s withdrawal policy risks an eventual collapse in Iraq. That would raise the political cost to Obama of sticking to his withdrawal policy.

    If Obama does not change the policy, according to the source, they hope to have planted the seeds of a future political narrative blaming his withdrawal policy for the “collapse” they expect in an Iraq without U.S. troops.

    …That line seems likely to appeal to reporters covering the Iraq troop withdrawal issue.

    (My Bold)

    Wanna bet that last quoted line must be referring to folks like Tom Ricks?

      • MadDog says:

        I wonder if new Obama National Security Advisor retired Marine General James Jones is using the same White House phone number as his predecessor Stephen Hadley?

        Probably not, but if so, I’m sure Jack Keane has continued to ring it off the hook.

        • emptywheel says:

          Oh, I don’t think Keane was ever working through Hadley. I expect that there are Keane contacts with Cheney going back several months before September 2006. Woodward always describes him calling John Hannah (after Libby left, Dick’s NSA) to get things done.

          So my guess is that during the entire period when, Woodward claims, Cheney was uninvolved, he was very much involved, up to and including letting Odierno know what was expected of him if he wanted to be promoted to head Iraq. Of course Cheney isn’t going to admit that he fucked up in 2003 (when, presumably, Odierno was ALSO following his orders). But I expect Odierno came to his newfound views because it was really advantageous career-wise.

          Also remember that some peopel call Hadley a “sleeper agent” for Cheney. So when he claims he came to an idea of his own accord, I wouldn’t necessarily believe it.

          • MadDog says:

            Oh, I don’t think Keane was ever working through Hadley…

            Maybe not through Hadley so much or just through Hadley, but certainly putting a thumb on the Hadley scale as Rick’s article reports:

            …Plotting with Odierno, Keane bypassed the Pentagon and called the White House, which he had already been lobbying for a troop surge. “Just think about what’s going to happen,” he told national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley…

            And you’ve definitely nailed it EW with this:

            But I expect Odierno came to his newfound views because it was really advantageous career-wise.

            Funny how that worked out, isn’t it?

            Petraeus gets promoted, Odieno gets promoted, McMaster gets promoted, etc. And all form a Cheney Firewall against the new Obama Administration.

            There’s a reason Deadeye located his primary “retirement” office right smack dab in middle of the the DC Beltway. Thumbs are easier to put on the scale if the scale is right outside your front door.

            And anyone who thinks Junya was running the Iraq War show and not “Hands-on” Cheney, has been smoking too much herb.

            • MadDog says:

              And btw, if you think that Obama Administration’s “losing” of the Iraq War is the only item on the agenda with the Cheney “left behinds” like Petraeus et al, think again:

              …Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, said the war in Afghanistan “has deteriorated markedly in the past two years” and warned of a “downward spiral of security.”

              In addition to more combat troops, Petraeus called for “a surge in civilian capacity” to help rebuild villages, train local police forces, tackle corruption in the Afghan government and reduce the country’s thriving opium trade. He also suggested that the odds of success were low, given that foreign military powers have historically met with defeat in Afghanistan.

              (My Bold)

              Campaign 2012 for the Repugs has already begun, and their decades-long tradition of blaming the Democrats for foreign policy and war failures is one of their primary instruments.

              Stay tuned ’cause you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

              • macaquerman says:

                The call for more troops in Afghanistan and for a massive build-up of civilain capacity is exactly what Obama and his foreign policy staff called for during the campaign.
                What’s the objection?

                • MadDog says:

                  What “objection” are you referring to?

                  If you meant my “commenting” on the WaPo’s interpretation of Petraeus’ thinking wrt to success in Afghanistan, to wit: “…He also suggested that the odds of success were low…”, I’d think that would be pretty self-evident.

                  To my eyes, that sure sounds like someone who is preparing to jump ship in order to join the Repug “blame game” express.

                  And I believe that was what I postulated.

                  So, again, what “objection” are you referring to?

                  • macaquerman says:

                    I was thinking that Petraeus was calling for reinforcements in Afghanistan because he was tasked with improving our situation using the methods that Obama desires.
                    Jumping ship would seem to be not on the agenda. If he fails, he’s going down with the damn ship.
                    If you want to jump on his ass, you might make a case that he’s preparing to accept more credit than his share.

                    • MadDog says:

                      I was thinking that Petraeus was calling for reinforcements in Afghanistan because he was tasked with improving our situation using the methods that Obama desires.

                      We then differ. My take was that Petraeus’ central thought was that the situation in Afghanistan was a clusterfuck and that regardless of increased troop levels (and “a surge in civilian capacity”), he was not sanguine about the chances for success; to wit “…He also suggested that the odds of success were low…”

                      And I believe there is more than a bit of truth in what the WaPo said about Petraeus’ beliefs. I clearly prefer my interpretation over yours. *g*

                      Jumping ship would seem to be not on the agenda. If he fails, he’s going down with the damn ship.

                      Nah. The Afghanistan ship will take far more time to entirely sink. The Afghanistan problem is unlikely to be solved in the next 2 years. More like another decade. I can guarantee that Petraeus is not going to be the CENTCOM commander ad infinitum.

                      And coupled with the insistence by the Obama Administration on an Iraq withdrawal timeline that has almost no support from Petraeus, Odierno, Keane et all, I’d take a bet whether Petraeus stays in the military past the next two years.

                      Which would be just in time for the 2012 Presidential nomination process to kick off.

                      In any event, we’ll see.

              • MadDog says:

                This is from an interview with Gareth Porter after he published his article earlier this week:

                Why you should know Gen. Jack Keane

                PORTER: Well, I mean, I think that Jack Keane is somebody who people who want to understand what’s happening in the Middle East really should become familiar with, because in a way he’s sort of the mafia don of this network of retired and active-duty generals who are now quietly at work trying to figure out how they can really turn this storyline over the next few weeks against Obama, making sure that anybody in the Pentagon who meets with a reporter is going to give the same line that, you know, he’s threatening stability in Iraq, and this is not acceptable, and he needs to change his policy.

                Gareth has far more to say in the interview and it’s well worth the entire read!

    • Loo Hoo. says:

      A network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilising public opinion against Obama’s decision…

      Hasn’t public opinion been established? Since before the 2006 elections? It’s going to be kind of a hard sell.

      • MadDog says:

        We need to distinguish between authentic public opinion and the forthcoming Villager-manufactured public opinion.

        Guess which one will get the press? Guess which one matters to the Village idiots?

  12. bobschacht says:

    “The surge worked”

    Notice the price of the surge: Ethnic cleansing of vast portions of the Iraq landscape, turning ethnic areas into walled ghettos. In other words, a short-term solution creating long-term problems for Iraqi society and, BTW, the decimation of the Christian minority in Iraq. Yeah, right, the surge worked. Sorta like “We had to destroy it to save it.” Nice job, Brownie.

    Bob in HI

  13. MadDog says:

    And another point; Rick’s describes Petraeus thusly:

    …The nimble Petraeus is as much a diplomat as a soldier…

    (My Bold)

    This is disingenuous at best. Petraeus is not a diplomat, but a General with political instincts and political ambitions.

    I don’t say that Petraeus is a politician. Not yet, not quite yet.

    If you remember during the runup to the 2008 election campaign, it was widely reported that the Repugs had their eyes on, and interest in, Petraeus as one of their future Presidential candidates.

    Should there be a fundamental disagreement on our Iraq War withdrawal timeline (as that Gareth Porter article already indicates exists), one could well imagine General Petraeus resigning in “protest” and throwing his gold-braided hat in the ring against Obama in 2012.

    Many Repugs pray for just this “protest” and 2012 candidacy.

    If you look carefully at what has already been said by folks like Jack Keane, the battlelines have already been drawn, such as reported, again, in the WaPo by Bob Woodward last September before the election:

    “Let’s be frank about what’s happening here,” Keane told Gates. “We are going to have a new administration. Do we want these policies continued or not? Do we want the best guys in there who were involved in these policies, who were advocates for them? Let’s assume we have a Democratic administration and they want to pull this thing out quickly, and now they have to deal with General Petraeus and General Odierno. There will be a price to be paid to override them.”

    (My Bold)

  14. kspena says:

    A little OT—When Joe Biden gave this speech on Iran in Munich yesterday, Patraeus was in the audience in civilian clothes. I wonder what Patraeus’ ears heard…I’m sure he understands that Iraq policy can’t be separated from Iran policy. One of the reports I read, and can’t find now, said no one paid much attention to the general.

    “US Vice President: America willing to talk to Iran

    Biden: US offers Iran choice between ‘pressure and isolation’ or ‘meaningful incentives’.

    MUNICH – The United States is willing to talk to Iran and offer it a choice between “pressure and isolation” or “meaningful incentives,” US Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday.

    “We will be willing to talk to Iran, and to offer a very clear choice: continue down the current course and there will be continued pressure and isolation; abandon the illicit nuclear programme and your support for terrorism and there will be meaningful incentives,” Biden said.

    The new US administration of President Barack Obama is “reviewing” Iran policy, Biden told an audience of foreign leaders and other officials in a major foreign policy address at the annual Munich Security Conference.

    “The Iranian people are a great people, and Persian civilisation is a great civilisation,” Biden said.

    “But Iran has acted in ways that are not conducive to peace in the region or to the prosperity of its own people; its illicit nuclear programme is but one of those manifestations.”

    Biden’s comments underlined a key difference between Obama and his predecessor, former president George W. Bush, who once labelled Iran a member of the “Axis of Evil”. US-Iran relations have been frozen for three decades.”


  15. tanbark says:

    [email protected]; (and others) That’s exactly what Petraeus is doing. He knows damn well that without our military (and those blank checks on the U.S. Treasury) there to back up Maliki and keep the lid on the factionalism, via carrot and stick, the Kumbayah chorus is very likely to sing another tune. When we leave, we’re going to find out the answer to the question of just how much support “Greater Iraq” really has, and it’s not likely to be the one that we want to hear.

    Obama knows this, too. And he’s under the gun to make substantial withdrawals by the mid-terms or he and the dems will get hammered. Two years later, if we still have tens of thousands of troops there, he could be a one term preznint. Petraeus, Odierno, and the repubs would like nothing better than to keep us there long enough for the denouement to be blamed on him. Which is why I think he should take advantage of the relative stability very soon, to start getting us out. The longer we stay, the harder, not easier, it will be to leave. Of course part of getting us out, is “reassigning” the brass hats who took on the ass-covering duty for Bush and his minions.

    I’ve been saying for a long time that our sense of well-being, and of optimism, is heavily tied to bush’s twin clusterfucks. An economic priming of the pump is necessary and good, but if the shit really hits the fan in either of Bush’s let’s-turn-them-into-Rotarians-and-stockholders venue, and if that $2.5 bil a week keeps going into the urinal (more, in Afghanistan) then it’s going to be hard for americans to be singing

    “Happy Times Are Here Again.”

    Don’t forget; 4 of the 18 provinces couldn’t even vote in the provincial elections; it was considered too risky a process for them.

    The Brits are finally getting smarter; they’re bailing by mid-summer. They know a little something about getting out of colonial mis-adventures while the getting is good.

    Sadr’s clout has been bouncing around like a yo-yo. Of late, it’s sorta/kinda down, but that could change in a hurry. The best that can be hoped for is something along the lines of Lebanon; i.e.: you don’t come on our turf and we won’t come on yours…except, of course, that all that flammable dinosaur residue makes Iraq just a tad more volatile than Lebanon.

    Working on the economy is the right thing, just now. Obama came into office with more personal manna than any recent president. HE won the election, not Biden nor Emanuel nor Pelosi, and damn sure, not Clinton. He needs to be wearing out the bully pulpit. Every time he speaks, the repubs squeal like stuck hogs, because they know people are listening. He’s WAY better at this than they are, and he has practically zero responsiblity for the shit that we’re in. That’s on their bar-tab, and he, and we, can’t remind everyone of it TOO much.

    He needs to tell Rahm Emanuel to STFU and stop playing with fire by trying to cover Obama’s ass for a few missteps, by racking Reid and Pelosi. They’ve been jellyfish, for sure, but keep it simple. Speak to the people. We WANT to hear how he’s going to change things, and if the repubs want to sabotage the plan to do it, then we can take our chances with the voters.

    The blame game is GOING to be played. We might as well get good at it.

    It’s overdue. :o)

  16. MadDog says:

    And some more noteworthy information on Tom Ricks and the selling of the Petraeus/Odierno/Keane strategy to “stay the course” in Iraq in opposition to the Obama Administration via today’s Politico:

    Thomas E. Ricks, the nation’s best-known defense correspondent, writes in a book out this week that many Iraq veterans believe the U.S. is likely to have “soldiers in combat in Iraq until at least 2015 – which would put us now at about the midpoint of the conflict.”

    …Ricks, author of the bestselling “Fiasco,” offers that grim forecast in a new book being published Tuesday, “The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008” (394 pages, The Penguin Press, $27.95)…

    …On NBC’s “Meet the Press on Sunday, Ricks told moderator David Gregory that “a lot of people back here incorrectly think the war is over.”

    “What I say in this book is that we may be only halfway through this thing,” Ricks said…

    (My Bold)

    Ricks is a totally disinterested propagandist author with absolutely no reason to shill for the Petraeus/Odierno/Keane military mafia wunderkind. /snark

    • MadDog says:

      I shill you not, again from that Politico article:

      …Just before the election, Odierno said in my interview with him that one of the points he would make to the new president would be ‘the importance of us leaving with honor and justice… For the military it’s extremely important because of all the sacrifice and time and, in fact, how we’ve all adjusted and adapted.’ … Like Clinton, Obama also would face the prospect of a de facto alliance between the military and congressional Republicans to stop him from making any major changes

      (My Bold)

      • kspena says:

        I think that this might be why General Jones is at the NSC with increased powers….to whack Gates and Patraeus…

        • MadDog says:

          I’m hoping General Jones is Obama’s Silver Bullet against the Petraeus/Odierno/Keane crew.

          One of the incidents, reported by Bob Woodward, that gives me hope is this:

          …Presidents and generals don’t have to live on doubt. But they should learn to love it. “You should not be the parrot on the secretary’s shoulder,” said Marine General James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, to his old friend General Peter Pace, who was then the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff a group Jones thought had been “systematically emasculated by Rumsfeld…”

          For those of you who know Marines, this speaks volumes about General Jones.

          For those of you who don’t know Marines, no Marine Officer like the then JCS Chairman General Pace, could ever accept this as anything but the worst personal rebuke in his Marine career. From another Marine, no less!

          Probably the only worst insults to a Marine would be to call one a coward…or a sissy. Yeah, I know that “sissy” thing probably isn’t PC, but then Marines are not PC…and still proud of it!

            • MadDog says:

              Thanks for another excellent link!

              I haven’t read it yet, but will do so in the ‘morrow.

              For now, the sheep want to be counted, so I’ll oblige ‘em.

              And my apologies (not really *g*) to EW for monopolizing her most excellent posting.

              As Chief Dan George said in the Outlaw Josey Wales movie, “I will endeavor to persevere” not to monopolize in the future. Hah! *g*

  17. JohnJ says:

    I think that if the American people realize that the military is trying to become a fourth branch of the government they would agree to sacking the current subordinates. The idea that the military would suggest going over the president’s head directly to the people sure raised my hackles. Especially when that President was elected to fix our military debacle.

    I don’t give the much credit to the collective mentality of Americans lately, after the last 10 years, but I do think that the vast majority would understand that our military works FOR US!

  18. tanbark says:

    [email protected]…”My bold…”

    It’s good bold. I think that’s the plan.

    At some point Obama is going to have to Trumanize these wannabe MacArthur’s. :o)

    As Sharkbabe asked of the Prez, on a thread at Digby’s:

    “You’re the fucking boss…..aren’t you?” :o)

    And they will NEVER give up the idea of cobbling up an attack on Iran, as a way of enshrining a degree of misery and chaos in the mid-east that will determine our policy there for decades.

    Which is one more reason why Obama should keep Hillary Clinton on a VERY short leash, particulary in regards to her showing up in Baghdad to swap media-spit with Petraeus and Odierno.

    Robert Johnson, the great Delta Blues singer:

    “Watch your close friends, baby…and yo’ enemies can’t do you no harm.”

  19. JohnJ says:

    While I’m ranting: I really doubt that, we-the-people have that much invested in the “success” in Iraq, whatever the hell that is. The consensus is that we were lied into this whole thing and the continuation is just the last admin and the military trying to save face.

    We got Saddam. Cheney and friends made lots and lots of (our) money. We are tired of it and our own problems far out-shadow what else happens over there.

    I really don’t think a few generals are going to get a lot of out-of-work evicted people worked up about a foreign problem THEY should have solved a LONG TIME AGO!

    I really want to say: go ahead…see how many people really care right now.

  20. neurophius says:

    As one who has not followed these events closely, I would like to ask what may be a stupid question: what difference does it make (why does it matter) who first conceived the strategy of The Surge™? I am not being sarcastic or argumentative, I am just seeking information and understanding. Thank you.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think it’s important to track who is mytholigizing the war and how, because it identifies where attacks on Obama are going to come from and on what terms.

      As Mary points out upthread, the surge isn’t even the thing that mattered. It was the ethnic cleansing that the Iraqis did on their own (well, in the vacuum we created) and the paying of Sons of Iraq in Anbar.

      But by laying claim to the surge, Bush’s people are trying to shore up his legacy, the generals are trying to challenge Obama’s foreign policy (and in the process keep us militarized to the hilt). And Cheney, by not admitting what I suspect is a huge role in it, doesn’t admit he was laying this groundwork before Bush and is pushing for a semi-permanent presence in his oil client state (remember, Cheney’s reasons for going to war were probably much more resource based than Bush’s psychological ones). Plus, I suspect Cheney is still pushing the surge myths to help the generals undercut Obama.

      I could be wrong on what this means–but it is important to map this myth-making.

  21. kspena says:

    More on Jones at Munich yesterday via Reuters (no mention of Patraeus):

    MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) – A comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan must be agreed by the NATO summit in April, U.S. national security adviser and retired Gen. James Jones told a German newspaper.

    Jones, who is to speak at the Munich Security Conference later on Saturday, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily the problems in Afghanistan required more than a military response.

    “Not everything has collapsed but the trends don’t look good,” Jones said.


    “On Friday, Ari Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, told the conference U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to send an envoy to the Middle East to sound out countries in the region was a “positive signal.”

    Sueddeutsche Zeitung said Jones viewed Larijani’s remarks positively. One could see a readiness for dialogue, the paper cited Jones as saying in reported speech.

    • Leen says:

      From what I am hearing from friends in Afghanistan. It is obvious that far more than a “military response” is needed in Afghanistan

      The people in Afghanistan are clearly aware that we did very little to help them build an infrastructure of roads, electric, water, hospitals, schools etc after their war with Russia. In fact they know that we did not help even replant orchards that were wiped out during their war with Russia. (you know wipe out the food sources the way white folks wiped out the buffalo)

      They know we abandoned them then and have been pouring billions into the war in Iraq and very little into Afghanistan. They even wondered if the Bush administration just wanted more chaos in their country

  22. kspena says:

    And this on a debate today in Munich that included Patraeus:

    “Later on Sunday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Makhdoom Qureshi is set to debate the future of NATO’s Afghan mission with, among others, British Defence Minister John Hutton and US General David Petraeus, who scored some of the earliest successes in stabilizing Iraq.

    Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is also due to join the debate.”…..sions.html

    • bobschacht says:

      Add this (sorry, no link):

      From The Sunday Times
      February 8, 2009
      Obama puts brake on Afghan surge

      Sarah Baxter and Michael Smith
      PRESIDENT Barack Obama has demanded that American defence chiefs review their strategy in Afghanistan before going ahead with a troop surge.

      There is concern among senior Democrats that the military is preparing to send up to 30,000 extra troops without a coherent plan or exit strategy.

      Obama promised an extra 7,000-10,000 troops during the election campaign but the military has inflated its demands. Leading Democrats fear Afghanistan could become Obama’s “Vietnam quagmire”.

      If the surge goes ahead the military intend to limit the mission to fighting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and leave democracy building and reconstruction to Nato allies and civilians from the State Department and other agencies.

      The United States has been pushing Britain to send several thousand more troops but there is just as much disagreement and confusion among British defence chiefs over the long-term aim. Gordon Brown is set to receive a full briefing this week.

      General Sir Richard Dannatt, the army chief who will step down this summer, has insisted that troops need a rest and believes he can send only one battlegroup, senior defence sources said.

      General Sir David Richards, his successor, believes that the two extra battlegroups the Americans have asked for is the minimum the UK should send, the sources said.

      This is most welcome news. I wonder if Rachel Madoff’s harping on this theme has finally had an impact!

      Bob in HI

  23. kspena says:

    OT-My apologies to EW, too, for getting so far afield on Afganistan, B.U.T. one more from BBC. I hadn’t caught this at the time…

    “The decline in relations began with a visit last year by Joe Biden, now the vice-president, to Kabul.

    “Joe Biden’s meeting with President Karzai reportedly did not go well

    “At the time, as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, he attended a private meeting with Mr Karzai.

    “A well-placed source describes Mr Biden, exasperated at not getting “straight answers” on drugs and corruption, launching into a verbal tirade and storming out of the meeting.

    “In a country where honour and decorum are second only to God and country, this was less than tactful.”

    and, consequently….

    “President Karzai has been holding a series of meetings with former Mujahedeen commanders in the past few weeks amid suggestions that he is trying to align the country with Russia.”

  24. tanbark says:

    ‘Wheel says: “I think it’s important to track who is mytholygizing the war, and how, because it identifies where the attacks on Obama are going to come from and on what terms.”


    The best, most perceptive and most USEFUL sentence in this thread.

    Think of how pervasive the invasion of Iraq has become to america.
    One of the reasons that the neocons and petro-borgs wanted this so badly is that they knew how irreversible would be the effects of it. Down to our very culture. That’s why Bush got us to within a finger-snap of attacking Iran. After 5 years of blood, bullshit, and astronomical expense, the support for clusterfuck #1 was evaporating daily, so they wanted to crank up #2, on Iran, to REALLY lock us into their insanity. The chaos and bloodshed and tension would have defined our foreign
    AND domestic policies for a long, long, time.

    Now, Obama has to do damage control, and get us out of tar pit. I don’t think he’s going to be able to sneak us out; it’s going to be bandaid-on-the-hairy-leg painful.

    For starters, he’s going to have to pull the plug on the vestigial warbots, before they lock him into the same framework of lunacy.

    • wavpeac says:

      EXACTLY. I don’t believe for one minute that any of this was do to ineptitude. Not for a minute. It all benefits them (the corporate elite) too well to be coincidence or “mistake”. No, this has been part of a well thought out plan. And it is working and it continues to work. That’s what is so frustrating. That this paradigm of corporate worship is still making the decisions for us. It works. And we are the only ones who can make it stop working. The solutions are elegant and simple but it’s a different paradigm than the one I see Obama operating from. He must use a mixture of the kind of reaching across the aisle that he is using, with a very hard stance about his highest priorities. Those highest priorities should define him, his administration and all he stands for and on those he should be unmove-able. Right now the only value we can say he has been consistent about is “compromise”. That is not a new paradigm for democrats.

      Let me define it for him…sorry.

      1) the constitution above all else.
      2) Provide universal health care…socialized medicine. This would end the debt that has frozen and destroyed so many American’s credit and assets.
      3) Develop alternatives to oil, so that the middle east problems have less power to destroy our economy and so they have less control over us.
      4) stop the banking fraud as it will restore the economy as well.
      5) Develop a new plan and strategy with the Middle East based on oil independence and detachment from the middle east. So we can take on a humanitarian role instead of needy, greedy dependency that makes us violate our values and look like a whole country of pathological co-dependents.

      Now if his behaviors would simply follow those values of which he should be unwavering…he could reach across the aisle and be as nicey, nicey as he wants to be. Unfortunately right now he is exhibiting the signs of symptoms of co-dependency in that he is making his decisions based on their reactions and his fears about what they might do next. That causes inconsistent policy, it causes us to violate our values and it give THEM way too much power to manipulate the country with.


  25. Mary says:

    Last week, driving home I caught the second half of an interview with Sarah Chayes and the first half of one with Ahmed Rashid, both on Fresh Air.

    The npr links are here:…..=100189461
    and here:…..=100211914

    There was quite a bit of very good info, and once again the info on just how bad the corruption has become and how that plays into the resurgence of the Taliban. Also the strategic issues relating to the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat valley (from Rashid)

    Another interesting “sidelight” is that there was a European stir created over an order to NATO troops in Afghanistan:

    From Germany –…..30,00.html

    …a controversial order issued by American NATO High Commander Bantz John Craddock to the commanders of the NATO peacekeeping troop ISAF in Afghanistan has angered politicians in Berlin, who are now demanding answers …
    They have also expressly criticized an order that calls on NATO to conduct targeted killings of drug traffickers and to attack narcotics laboratories, even without clear evidence that the targets provide support for terrorist acts against Afghan or Western security forces.

    The content of the order is explosive. It is “no longer necessary to produce intelligence or other evidence that each particular drug trafficker or narcotics facility in Afghanistan meets the criteria of being a military objective,” Craddock writes in the guidance.

    From the UK…..614564.ece

    A directive ordering Nato commanders to begin directly targeting drug smugglers and heroin factories in Afghanistan is being resisted by senior officers in the country.

    From Canada – which appears to limit and modify the order some for their troops:…..fghan.html

    Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan will be ordered to attack opium traffickers and drug facilities when there is proof of direct links to the Taliban, CBC News has learned.

    The new order follows a heated debate among NATO allies over whether the attacks could be declared war crimes.

    “Does the government believe that such military action will resolve the drug problem in Afghanistan and does the government support NATO orders that potentially put our soldiers at risk of violating international law?” NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar asked.

    Dewar said that the drug operation is not the kind of work Parliament approved when Canada’s mission in Afghanistan was extended until 2011.

    The issue had divided the 26-member military alliance.

    Commanders on the ground had earlier refused an order from the organization’s top commanders to target the drug trade because the NATO order failed to distinguish between drug traffickers and those who directly support the Taliban.

    International law forbids nations from using military force against criminals, including drug traffickers.

    That Obama admin commitment to the rule of law, to not commiting war crimes or insulating war criminals from consequence – gosh darn it, that’s all paying off. Oh, wait, it wasn’t our CIC, it was England and Germany and other countries refusing to commit war crimes. I guess they didn’t get the OLC memos, eh?

  26. freepatriot says:

    I thought General Shinsecki preposed the surge in February of 2003

    maybe Jack Keane was off-planet that week

    and as an off-topic smiler, look at this poll number:

    A Gallup poll released today shows Obama with 67% support, while the Republicans in Congress have only 31% approval and a staggering 58% disapproval.

    I’m wondering if the repuglitards have figured out who’s being played here …

  27. Mary says:

    73 – there are lots of elements of a response to that. There were many promises made to the Afghans in order to try to rally support for the US backed gov that was being installed after the invasion. Those promises were made in connection with the recognition that allowing Afghanistan to continue as a failed state is the equivalent of allowing it to continue to be, in effect, a criminal’s hide out, a breeding and breathing grounds for al Qaeda and others.

    Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan has no real source of legitmate income, with the opium trade being how a big chunk of the population puts food on the table. So to accomplish the goal of having a non-criminal enterprise in place to help stabilize the country – with the stabilization being for the US’ own interests of national security – you need to have some kind of help.

    In addition to the promises made, there has also been a) the demonstrated capacity of the US to devote large military resources to the country and to use those resources to engage in activities that routinely kill civilians and b) a great deal of US “taking credit for” ALREADY providing aid and the Afghans aren’t seeing it, which makes them even more frustrated.

    It’s a bit dated, but this article by Ann Jones (which I am finding through google as a reprint at TomDispatch) helps to explain the frustration in the nation over phantom aid, creating projects that only employ non-Iraqis, bringing in prostritution and exploiting the population via unreasonable charges and tolls and backing criminals in the name of “security” that is never created, etc. Then add on the continued killings of civilans and the outright lies circulated as propaganda about those killings, and yeah, I think they do feel we owe something. YMMV, but listen to Chayes and read the Jones article and factor them in to your ultimate impressions and decisions.

    Then you might want to also look into information such as the info on Dostum, who Afghans have wanted to pursue for war crimes on more than one occasion, but who has been protected by the US. One of the cases that the Obama administration will be “defending” is one brought by survivors of an encounter with Dostum, who the US sent to GITMO and then (I’ll use “coerced” but I’m thinking tortured) coerced false confessions that they were the men in a picture with Bin Laden. In any event, while we were paying people like Dostum cash bounties for anyone they turned over that they said was Taliban or al-Qaeda, Dostum put a few hundred people he rounded up in sealed containers, shipping them like goods for cash. They began suffocating to death and as they screamed, he had people fire directly into the containers, killing some of those inside from gunfire. Only 20 or so survived, and of those the US decided that the 4 who were British and might have quite a tale to tell about the hundreds killed in the sealed container – well, those guys had to go to GITMO and something had to be gotten out of them in confessions. And now – well, Dostum had the container buried initially, but as the US case has been going forward and it looked like the US might be electing someone who cared about war crimes (kind of laughable now, but still, he thought it then) Dostum has been digging up and destroying the evidence from the container killings, while US troops stand back and let him.

    Hard to understand why the Afghans think we owe them?

    Back to the Jones article for a few snips:

    Instead of pressing for peace negotiations among rival Afghan parties, the victorious Americans handed power to Islamists and militia commanders who had served as America’s stand-in soldiers in its Afghan proxy war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Then the Bush administration staged elections for these candidates and touted the result as democracy. It also confined an International Security Assistance Force, made up largely of European troops, to the capital, creating an island of safety for the government, while dispatching warlords of its choice to hunt for Osama bin Laden in the countryside.

    She touches on “phantom aid” and how pledges of aid are often “met” by paying for US based consultants to hand out opinions, and then brings in a specific discussion on the “gift from the US” a road that the US promised to Afghanistan.

    …even though other international companies had been ready to rebuild the highway for $250,000 per kilometer, the U.S.-based Louis Berger Group got the job at $700,000 per kilometer — of which there are 389. Why? The standard American answer is that Americans do better work — though not Berger which, at the time, was already years behind on another $665 million contract to build Afghan schools. Berger subcontracted to Turkish and Indian companies to build the narrow, two-lane, shoulderless highway at a final cost of about $1 million per mile; and anyone who travels it today can see that it is already falling apart.

    Former Minister of Planning Ramazan Bashardost complained that when it came to building roads, the Taliban had done a better job; and he too asked, “Where did the money go?” Now, in a move certain to tank President Karzai’s approval ratings and further endanger U.S. and NATO troops in the area, the Bush administration has pressured his government to turn this “gift of the people of the United States” into a toll road, charging each driver $20 for a road-use permit valid for one month. In this way, according to American experts providing highly paid technical assistance, Afghanistan can collect $30 million annually from its impoverished citizens and thereby decrease the foreign aid “burden” on the United States.
    …At one end of the infamous highway, in Kabul, Afghans complain about the fancy restaurants where those experts, technicians, and other foreigners gather, men and women together, to drink alcohol, carry on, and plunge half-naked into swimming pools. They object to the brothels — eighty of them by 2005 — that house women trafficked in to serve the “needs” of foreign men. They complain that half the capital city still lies in ruins, that many people still live in tents, that thousands can’t find jobs, that children go hungry, that schools and hospitals are overcrowded, that women in tattered burqas still beg in the streets and turn to prostitution, that children are kidnapped and sold into slavery or murdered for their kidneys or eyes. They wonder where the promised aid money went and what the puppet government can possibly do to make things better.

    • macaquerman says:

      I believe that we’re talking about different time periods. Leen was asking why we didn’t rebuild Afghanistan after its’ war with the USSR. I was questioning the Afghani expectation of that time.
      After OUR invasion of Afghanistan, I agree wholeheartedly that we should be pouring funding into development.

  28. Mary says:

    79 – we were talking different time periods – sorry. I think the expectations back after the war with the USSR came from the back channels that were providing support to the Afghans in their fight – that the US Congress could be pushed to come through for them if they were the heroes who threw off the communist aggressors. But after finding ways to get weapons funding and materials to them covertly, we just fell down on the “overt” aid after the Soviets withdrew. I don’ think there were any official promises made by a centralized gov to a centralized gov, but I do think there were lots of non-official tidbits tossed to the various leaders of militia groups, fwiw.

  29. Hugh says:

    Thinking about Ricks reminds me of Michael Gordon. Where Gordon is hamfisted in repeating the Pentagon line, Ricks is a lot cagier and more dangerous. Last Sunday he was on MTP and he admitted that point of the surge: a political settlement had not been met. But then he intorduced the hook to his con. He had been told by a military leader that the defining event of our Iraq experience had yet to occur. Now you might wonder if the policy is to cut back our involvement and leave what such an event might be or even could be. Ricks introduces the concerns that the military “after all their hard won gains” do not wish to see these lost, etc., etc. It’s an interesting song and dance to watch. Ricks appears to be both objective and to line up with Pentagon interests. In this he is more reminiscent of an Anthony Cordesman who can lay out all the problems there are in Iraq and then use these, not as a reason to get the hell out, but to double down.

    As for Odierno being the intellectual father of some overarching strategy, that’s where Ricks really jumps the shark. It’s like the Fonze really being Albert Einstein in disguise only less believable.

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