Out of Sight…

by matttbastard

The NY Times:

According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s News Coverage Index, coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has slipped to 3 percent of all American print and broadcast news as of last week, falling from 25 percent as recently as last September.





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An Unparalleled Legacy

by matttbastard

Hey, Defeatocrats: it’s your war now.

President George W. Bush will signal next week that he will pull no more troops out of Iraq while he is president, once his troop surge ends in the summer.

His senior Iraq commander General David Petraeus will use his testimony to congress on Tuesday and Wednesday to argue for continuing political support for the tactics of the surge strategy even after a planned drawdown of troops.

US military chiefs have already committed to reduce the American combat presence in Iraq from 20 to 15 brigades by September. But in what administration officials say is a bid to bind the hands of his successor, Mr Bush will make clear that he will go no further to placate his critics.

“It looks like it will be that far and no further,” said a Pentagon official.

“Any further reductions will have to be made by the next president.”

With all three presidential candidates sitting on committees that will hear from Petraeus, how much you wanna bet that the Kabuki performances are especially melodramatic this time ’round? Yep, nothing like a good old fashioned dog and pony show to liven up a lull in the primary horse race. Speaking of award-worthy performances, it appears that General Colin Powell David Petraeus (and his 4 star credibility) will once again be playing the role of proxy for some decidedly less less-than-honest brokers:

Mr Bush’s determination to stand firm was reinforced by a report from Frederick Kagan, the architect of the surge strategy, sent to officials a week ago, which states: “The surge and the change in strategy have transformed security in Iraq”.

Mr Kagan warns that a reduction in combat forces below 15 battalions could endanger American objectives.

He said: “The drawdown that is already planned accepts considerable risk and will make the task of moving forward more complicated and harder and little bit slower. “I wouldn’t be comfortable pulling a single soldier out because we pay an exponential price for every brigade that comes out.”

And what are these vital “objectives” that would be “endangered” by troop reductions?

Michael O’Hanlon, a Brookings expert who supports Hillary Clinton, said Mr Bush has his eye on the judgment of history. “There’s obviously a focus that comes from being in the last year of a presidency,” he said.

It’s inconceivable he could be a successful president if his central foreign policy project failed, especially because it was his choice to wage the war when he did and it was his administration’s mistakes that set us on such a bad path.

“If we get to some reasonable outcome in Iraq, that’s not going to make him a great president but if we fail, it’s very likely he will be seen as a poor president.”

I’ve always admired Dubya’s keen sense of priorities.

(Oh, and not to toot my own horn, but I called all this last July. Sometimes I really, really hate being right.)

Related: Tom Engelhardt on why Petraeus’ testimony is guaranteed to be “delusional”; advance testimony from OG Iraq war critics William Odom and Nir Rosen (more on Rosen from Jon Schwarz).

h/t War in Context

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5 Years Already?

by matttbastard

5 years ago today, then-Secretary of State (and token ‘moderate’) Colin Powell chose (whether knowingly or with willful indifference) to blow all his accrued political capital in front of the UN Security council with an audacious performance filled with Power-Pointed propaganda, magical mobile bioweapons labs and fantastic tales of (ephemeral) collusion between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Take a few moments to recall the good ol’ days of hysterical brinkmanship and craven Democratic capitulation (h/t Rising Hegemon).  Oh, and feel free to also read through the nearly 1000 lies told by President Bush and his top officials (including Saint Colin) in order to help sell the future quagmire to an all-too-credulous media and general public (Pottery Barn rule FTW!)

More commemorative posts from LGM, Dohiyi Mir, and Scriptoids.

Related: Jamison Foser on the startling similarities between between Powell and “surge” figurehead General Petraeus, who, along with US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, is once again scheduled to wield his formidable credibility with yet another 4 star performance in front of Congress in April. It’s all just a little bit of history repeating–again.

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Compare and Contrast: Defining ‘Success’

by matttbastard


While the enemy is still dangerous and more work remains, the American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago. (Applause.) When we met last year, many said that containing the violence was impossible. A year later, high profile terrorist attacks are down, civilian deaths are down, sectarian killings are down.

When we met last year, militia extremists — some armed and trained by Iran — were wreaking havoc in large areas of Iraq. A year later, coalition and Iraqi forces have killed or captured hundreds of militia fighters. And Iraqis of all backgrounds increasingly realize that defeating these militia fighters is critical to the future of their country.

When we met last year, al Qaeda had sanctuaries in many areas of Iraq, and their leaders had just offered American forces safe passage out of the country. Today, it is al Qaeda that is searching for safe passage. They have been driven from many of the strongholds they once held, and over the past year, we’ve captured or killed thousands of extremists in Iraq, including hundreds of key al Qaeda leaders and operatives.

Last month, Osama bin Laden released a tape in which he railed against Iraqi tribal leaders who have turned on al Qaeda and admitted that coalition forces are growing stronger in Iraq. Ladies and gentlemen, some may deny the surge is working, but among the terrorists there is no doubt. Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq, and this enemy will be defeated. (Applause.)

When we met last year, our troop levels in Iraq were on the rise. Today, because of the progress just described, we are implementing a policy of “return on success,” and the surge forces we sent to Iraq are beginning to come home.

– US President George W. Bush, 2008 State of the Union Address

In only one respect has the surge achieved undeniable success: It has ensured that U.S. troops won’t be coming home anytime soon. This was one of the main points of the exercise in the first place. As AEI military analyst Thomas Donnelly has acknowledged with admirable candor, “part of the purpose of the surge was to redefine the Washington narrative,” thereby deflecting calls for a complete withdrawal of U.S. combat forces. Hawks who had pooh-poohed the risks of invasion now portrayed the risks of withdrawal as too awful to contemplate. But a prerequisite to perpetuating the war — and leaving it to the next president — was to get Iraq off the front pages and out of the nightly news. At least in this context, the surge qualifies as a masterstroke.

Andrew Bacevich, Surge to Nowhere

Related: Dahr Jamail talks to some of the missing voices in the Iraq debate; Al Qaeda may be “on the run in Iraq”, but, as Nir Rosen reports, support for the movement is surging in Lebanon.

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