Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Another good Bushie: General Petraeus and the surge deception

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Let's play a quick game of compare & contrast (via TP):

-- Gen. David Petraeus (April): "We’re only about two months into the surge."

-- Gen. David Petraeus (today): "We haven’t started the surge -- the full surge -- yet."

Hmmm. What do you think?

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General Petraeus has been widely celebrated for his competence, and his appointment as U.S. commander in Iraq was widely applauded -- the Senate confirmed him 81-0. He was seen as the right person to take over from Gen. George Casey and, indeed, the right person to lead Bush's new "strategy" for Irag, the so-called "surge" in Baghdad and Anbar province. "The New Way Forward," it was meant to be, or so it was spun, and we were told that the U.S. was in good hands.

Petraeus may indeed have good hands. He may indeed by quite competent. But, more and more, he's looking like yet another Bushie. Not a Bushie like Harriett Miers or Andy Card or Alberto Gonzales -- no, not a slavish sycophant, not a corrupt crony -- but a Bushie with respect to his deception in support of Bush's war, his doing of Bush's bidding. Like so many of the others at the center of this war, from the warmongers in Washington to many of those actually waging the war, Petraeus has shifted his views -- i.e., uttered lies, saying one thing and then the complete opposite, without any nuance at all -- in order to defend the indefensible, which is what this war has become.

John Kerry may have been for it before he was against it, or whatever, but this is far worse. For so long, what changed was the rationale for the war. It was this before it was that before it was that other thing, and so on. Whatever was the convenient way of selling the war to a gullible public. It was WMDs until no WMDs were found. It was 9/11 until the Saddam-9/11 connection was debunked. It was the democratization of Iraq and the Middle East until that utopian dream was finally put to rest. But what has also been changing for so long is the explanation of how the war is going. Mission accomplished, then, well, not so much. The last throes of the insurgency, then, well, not so much. And so on. And now what we have is the top U.S. military official in Iraq claiming that the surge hasn't even started just two months after he declared it was already two months old. Oh, he caught himself: the full surge hasn't started yet. But since when were there two surges, the not-full and the full? Well, since it became clear -- and it has, more and more -- that the surge, the one surge that was intended, has been a miserable failure.

But there can be no admission of failure, hence the Bushiness of Petraeus's self-contradictory remark. Instead of admitting to failure, Petraeus has simply changed the rules of the game. How can the surge be a failure if it hasn't even started yet? It's like taking mulligan after mulligan off the tee until your drive hits the fairway. It means trying to succeed not only by changing the definition of success but by pretending that past failures don't mean anything at all. The problem is, you can't keep rolling the dice until they come up sixes. You can keep swinging for the fences until you finally hit the ball with the sweet spot of the bat. You get the point. A mulligan or two over the course of a round of golf may be acceptable, but claiming that an entire war, or a major aspect of it, has been a mulligan, well, not so much. And that's precisely what Petraeus is doing.

And so the surge hasn't started, yet, and for that reason Petraeus won't know by September, as he also claimed he would, how things are going. Democrats and Republican dissenters, the ranks of whom are swelling, were looking ahead to September for a definitive statement on the reality of the war, but now it looks like they won't get one. I supported the removal of a timetable for withdrawal from the funding bill because it didn't make much sense to me to keep sending Bush a bill he would veto, but part of the rationale for compromise was a sense that we would have a clearer picture of the situation in Iraq by the end of the summer. A statutory timetable may still not make much sense -- Joe Biden was right last night when he said that the only way to end the war is to elect a Democrat to the White House in '08 -- but Democrats and Republican dissenters need to push back hard. What we have here, after all, is a concerted strategy to prolong the war indefinitely, to ignore failure by changing the rules and trying again. Just ask Petraeus (and Bush): When will the full surge begin? When will sufficient time have passed for judgment to be rendered? You may get answers to those questions, but they won't mean anything at all.

And that's because the only consistency is deception, the repugnant Bushiness of it all.

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