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Bush Dumps Iraq Commanders, Prepares to Escalate Iraq War Despite Loss of Popular and Military Support

Reported by Marie Therese - January 8, 2007 -

On December 29th, the Military Times reported the results of a poll that showed that "the American military - once a staunch supporter of President Bush and the Iraq war - has grown increasingly pessimistic about chances for victory. For the first time, more troops disapprove of the president’s handling of the war than approve of it. Barely one-third of service members approve of the way the president is handling the war ..." According to the buzz, President George Bush fully intends to ignore the will of the American people and escalate the war in Iraq by assigning more troops to pacify Baghdad. Yesterday morning the neocons on FOX News Sunday donned their rose-colored glasses yet again in order to defend Bush's increasingly bizarre and disconnected attempt to achieve different results from the same actions. That, of course, is one of the classic definitions of insanity.

Brit Hume substituted for host Chris Wallace.

Despite the fact that Rep. Stenny Hoyer, the new House Majority Leader, told Hume earlier in the program that the "surge" strategy had already been tried and failed, Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes - both fall-on-the-sword types - trotted out arguments supportive of the Bush plan. Not only did they disparage the departing military leadership but they offered arguments that sounded rather more like wishful thinking than hard cold facts.

As everyone knows, George Bush has just replaced all the military commanders in Iraq because they finally found their voices and disagreed with his plan to deploy tens of thousands more American troops to Baghdad, to act as armed baby-sitters while a rag-tag, badly equipped and inadequately trained Iraqi army and police force do a street-by-street search in the Sunni and Shi'a neighborhoods of Baghdad. In short, George Bush is ordering more American soldiers into a deadly area with a bull's eye painted on their backs, fully aware that some of them will die.

FOX News Contributor Fred Barnes, editor of the Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard, got things off to a less that stellar start. He admitted that Bush is now acting in direct contradiction to statements made for the past three years, i.e., that he as Commander-in-Chief always acted in accordance with what the military men on the ground told him. Barnes then went on to pass the buck in a nasty little maneuver designed to take the heat off his beloved Bush and place it on the backs of the generals.

FRED BARNES: "Well, in truth, as Senator [Harry] Reid said, the President is not doing what his commanders on the ground have urged, mainly because their policy has failed. Baghdad is not secure. It's the center of great chaos and turmoil and violence in Iraq, so he's done what Abraham Lincoln did. When your commanders are not winning, you bring in new commanders. And, after all, he is the Commander-in-Chief. ..."

Comment: We have all worked for the kind of boss who makes an awful decision and then blames his subordinates for its ultimate failure. That's the kind of manager President George Bush really is. Except in his case he's got sycophants like Barnes to make it seem like the mistakes in the war weren't really his. The key issue here is that there is no way to "win" this war in any traditional sense of that word because the "enemy" is the very people we supposedly "liberated". Yet, the President seems unable to grasp that concept, preferring instead to risk the lives of thousands more of our soldiers in a misguided effort to prove that he's right and everyone else is wrong. By the way, that's another classic definition of insanity.

Nina Easton of Fortune Magazine noted that the President has created a bit of a double-bind for the Democrats. Included in Bush's emergency spending bill for Iraq is a $1 billion set-aside to create jobs in Iraq. Bush hopes he will get his funding approved because the Democrats won't want to be painted as unwilling to fund the soldiers' needs. Easton noted that the next big supplemental appropriations bill that is coming up will push the cost of the war in Iraq past the cost of the Vietnam war.

Comment: Gee, isn't that nice? Now that Kellogg Brown & Root has decided to leave Iraq, the American taxpayer is being asked to cough up even more money to fund the very reconstruction jobs KBR and other private contractors like them were supposed to be creating all along.

Bill Kristol then contended that "President Bush has chosen to change strategy in Iraq" yet a few minutes later, when confronted by Juan Williams with the fact that this very "surge" strategy was used last summer, argued that even though it was an old strategy, we simply didn't use enough troops the last time.

BILL KRISTOL: "They may phase them in, so it might ask with 20,000 but, look,[General] Dave Petraeus is going to take over and he's - he has taken over with the mission - win the war. And if he comes back to the President a month from now, when he's in command on the ground and says let's accelerate the surge in, which I think would be a good idea, frankly, front load the surge, it could be thirty or thirty-five thousand troops. But Bush has decided he's going to fight to win. ..."

NPR's Juan WIlliams finally made the point that the solution cannot just be military. It must be political as well.

JUAN WILLIAMS: "And there is more than military options on the table as we'll hear from the president this week. Nina touched on it. You're also going to have reconstruction money. You're gonna have micro-loans. You're gonna have jobs programs. If it's presented as a way, as a new option for Iraq, fine. People are going to give it an honest look. It's not the case that Democrats don't want success. But to come back to something Bill Kristol was saying, we have to define what success is. What does 'victory' mean? I don't know that you can beat the Iraqis militarily. You know, it's like an unruly third grade class. It's not as if you're gonna go in there and start smackin' people around and all the kids are gonna line up. I don't think it's gonna happen at this point. I think we've got trouble there, a civil war, and what we've got to do is protect our interests and our interests should be that we don't allow it to become a breeding ground for terrorism. The question is are you dealing with people who are Al Qaeda, Brit, or are you dealing with Shi'a versus Sunni?"

Later:

WILLIAMS: "When it comes to the U. S. military, adding 20,000, which Bill and others say might not even be enough, it's stretching the U. S. military to its very limits. We don't have the capacity here to do this and that's why it's gonna have to be phased and it's not going to be enough and it's gonna put - going back to what Fred [Barnes] said. We're gonna go into every neighborhood, Fred?"

BARNES: "Yeah."

WILLIAMS: "We're gonna become more targets of opportunities for the bad guys. And how long would you leave us there?"

BARNES: "There's a great history of counterinsurgency and, of course, the new Army counterinsurgency manual was largely written by General Petraeus. Counterinsurgency has worked. You go in. You secure the area. You pacify it so the people can carry on a normal life and you do this starting in the areas where the violence is. These are mainly the areas of mixed Sunni and Shi'a residence. And then, after you do that, which is, I think, quite winnable - you can't guarantee that - but after that then you go after the Mahdi army of al Sadr. And, look, Juan, you say there's a civil war. Well, there is something like a civil war going on in Baghdad and that's it. And then you have the other 90% of the country. You have to control your capitol city, no question about that. So that's where you start. I think this is - uh - quite winnable. General Petraeus thinks it's quite win - your strategy would have been to stick with General [George B.] McClellan during the Civil War and you'd have lost!"

Comment: Barnes might have been referring to the so-called "pacification" of the Phillipines during the Spanish-American War. Yes. We sort of won that one - through the use of concentration camps, summary executions and very strict martial law.

The war’s final year witnessed increased atrocities on both sides. In southern Luzon, Brigadier General J. Franklin Bell set up “concentration camps” for the region’s 300,000 civilians. Modeled on Indian reservations, the camps isolated the guerillas from their supporters. Bell then sent his troops to hunt down the region’s insurgents and destroy their supply caches. On the island of Samar, a bolo (machete) attack killed 48 of the 74 American soldiers in the garrison at Balangiga in August 1901. A punitive expedition on Samar was conducted so brutally that the island’s commander, Brigadier General Jacob Smith, was subsequently convicted at court-martial. Nonetheless, the increasingly fragmented resistance continued to wither. Lukban surrendered in February 1902 and Malvar two months later, effectively ending resistance. President Roosevelt, who had succeeded McKinley after his assassination, waited until the 4th of July to declare victory. The insurrection resulted in 4,234 American fatalities, over tenfold the 379 soldiers killed worldwide in the relatively quick victory over Spain. Source: PARAMETERS: US War College Quarterly, Spring 2005

And, in case anyone hasn't looked lately, there are still insurgents in the Phillipines and the country is quite unstable.

Another successful counteringurgency effort on the part of the United States government was, of course, our own Civil War. And we all know that, once they were defeated, the insurgent Confederate states laid down their arms and gratefully acceded to all the wishes of the victorious Union army. Which is, of course, a pile of hooey. The great grandchildren of the southern insurgency still defiantly fly their rebel flag as a badge of honor.

Yet neocon intellectuals like Barnes and Kristol seem to think that somehow Iraqis will behave differently!

JUAN WILLIAMS: "I'm just saying haven't we done this dance before? I think you and I have been here when we put 12,000 in last summer and we said we we're going to capture and control Baghdad, right? And what happened? We saw more violence than ever."

BILL KRISTOL: "And what's the implication of that? If we try something on too small a scale and it doesn't work we give up? Hey, we're all cynical Washington guys. We've done this before."

WILLIAMS: "No. This is real life."

KRISTOL: "Politically it sounds bad so Bush is supposed to give up? I really - I really - what's the alternative?"

NINA EASTON: "Well, the bottom line is Iraq security forces at some point have to be up to the job, which they're not, now. And this is the problem the President faces in selling this plan. At what point are the Iraqis going to take over their own security?"

KRISTOL: "Well, I think in a couple of years, if we first provide security but they're not up to it now. They aren't up to it now. And people can say - can dump on the Iraqis all they want and say they don't like the execution of Saddam, there's sectarian violence. Still, the question is: Is it in our national interest to lose this war in Iraq? You know, all this talk about redeployment, the one sentence we didn't quote from the Pelosi-Reid letter is the key one, I think - (reading) 'It is time to bring the war to a close.' That's what underlies the critics of the war's view. They don't have an alternative strategy. A few do. A few do. Pull back. Deploy forces around Kurdistan. I haven't heard that argued very well but that's what this really is about. What this is about is quote bringing the war to a close. The war's not going to be brought to a close. If we withdraw, the war's gonna get worse. More Iraqis are gonna get killed. Does anyone doubt that? 2007 is going to be a bloody year in Iraq. Period. That's just a fact. The question is whether it's a bloody year on the path to success for the U. S. in a vital, strategic interest or whether we lose."

COMMENT: Don't you just love it how rich guys find it so easy to talk about blood and death from the comfort of their posh desks? Some of those dead bodies will be American soldiers.