The National Security Network interviewed top national security experts, including former Bush administration counterterrorism analysts Richard Clarke and Rand Beers, to get their perspective on Petraeus’ testimony. “It’s going to be written by the White House. It’s going to be edited by the White House,” Clarke says of Petraeus’ “report.” Beers adds, “I think it’s a political document and I don’t think you can see it in any other way.” Watch it:
“President Bush is expected to name an attorney general soon - perhaps this week. The five finalists: Michael Mukasey, Theodore B. (Ted) Olson, Laurence H. Silberman, George J. Terwilliger and Larry D. Thompson.” Olson appears to be emerging as the frontrunner.
60 percent: Americans who say we “should set a timetable to withdraw forces ‘and stick to that timetable regardless of what is going on in Iraq.’”
The White House’s decision to send Rosh Hashanah greetings a week early elicited “a quizzical reaction around town among the president’s Jewish friends and supporters.” Former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman, who, like White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, is Jewish, “sent Bolten an e-mail asking why the White House had seemingly flubbed the date.”
Barry Jackson, one of Karl Rove’s key replacements in the White House, is seen as a “highly partisan go-getter.” An acquaintance of Jackson’s said he isn’t interested “‘let’s get along’ kind of stuff.”
The Pentagon is preparing to build its first base for U.S. forces near the Iraqi-Iranian border, a major new effort to curb the flow of advanced Iranian weaponry to Shiite militants across Iraq. “The base will be located about four miles from the Iranian border and will be used for at least two years.” (more…)
The AP reveals that a “briefing chart prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency says what Gen. David Petraeus won’t. Insurgent attacks against Iraqi civilians, their security forces and U.S. troops remain high.” Most of the insurgent attacks in Iraq continue to be focused on U.S. forces, as the chart shows:
UPDATE: Petraeus will reportedly say he wants another six months.
During an appearance on Meet the Press in July with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. James Webb (D-VA) referred to politicians’ visits to Iraq as “dog-and-pony shows.” In an email to its members today, MoveOn writes, “Congress was fooled before by the White House’s ‘dog and pony show’ — we need to make sure they’re not fooled again. That’s why we’re hosting our own ‘Dog and Pony Show’ outside the Capitol Building right before Petraeus takes the stage for his testimony. We want to show Congress and the cameras that the American people aren’t buying the White House spin.” More on the event:
Who: Iraq Vet, John Bruhns, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, dogs, ponies and MoveOn members like you
What: Dog and Pony Show rally
Where: West Front Grassy Area of the U.S. Capitol between Constitution Ave. NW and Independence Ave. SW on 1st St. NW (click here for a map)
RSVP: Click here
Yesterday, the New York Post published an editorial equating Osama bin Laden and his recent video tape with MoveOn.org:
If Osama bin Laden ever gets tired of waging global jihad, perhaps he should interview for a job with MoveOn.org.
He’d get one, judging from his latest videotape to the American people: The first in three years, it contains vast sections of rambling rhetoric indistinguishable from the latest “netroots” rant.
The Bush administration is increasingly touting the reduced violence in the Anbar province as evidence that the President’s escalation policies are working. Last week, President Bush made a surprise visit to the region and used it to argue that the troop buildup should not be cut short:
In Anbar you’re seeing firsthand the dramatic differences that can come when the Iraqis are more secure. … You see Sunnis who once fought side by side with al-Qaida against coalition troops now fighting side by side with coalition troops against al-Qaida.
But as the Washington Post outlines today, the escalation has nothing to do with Anbar’s success. The Sunnis in the region had developed a bottom-up plan to start fighting the al Qaeda insurgents in 2006, at least four months before Bush announced his escalation:
More striking was the emerging shift in Anbar; al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgents had grown so dominant in the western province that military intelligence had all but given up on the area months earlier. Bush benefited from good timing. As he introduced his new strategy, Marine commanders had already made common cause with local Sunni tribal leaders who had broken with the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, also called AQI. […]
The sheik who forged the alliance with the Americans, Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, traced the decision to fight al-Qaeda to Sept. 14, 2006, long before the new Bush strategy, but the president’s plan dispatched another 4,000 U.S. troops to Anbar to exploit the situation. As security improved, the White House eagerly took credit.
Even Gen. Petraeus has acknowledged that Anbar “was the result, not of military actions, certainly, alone. It was the result of, really, a political shift where the population led by the sheiks of major tribes decided to reject al Qaeda and its Taliban-like ideology, and the extremist behavior that they have come to associate with it.” Similarly, Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently admitted that the successes in Anbar were initiated by Iraqis, not U.S. troops.
Last week, CNN correspondent Michael Ware also noted that the Sunni insurgency in Anbar offered to work with U.S. troops — but not the Iraqi government — to fight al Qaeda in 2003, but the United States rejected the offer. Only “after four years of bloodshed” was the United States “finally ready to accept those terms.”
In his new biography of President Bush, GQ correspondent Robert Draper writes that Bush was never told bad news about Iraq. “The commanders and the troops never told him what was going wrong,” wrote Draper. “Just as the generals on the ground never once told the President during their regular video conferences, ‘Sir, we need more troops.’
On NBC’s The Chris Matthews Show this morning, Draper further elaborated on his report Bush never heard “what was going wrong” about Iraq. “He didn’t create the conditions where the truth could come out,” Draper explained, because he didn’t use “an honest line of questioning” with the generals:
DRAPER: Well, he didn’t create conditions where the truth could come out. He would have these secure video teleconferences with the generals, and he would ask a series of questions, but it wasn’t really an honest line of questioning. He would say “can we win, are we winning, what happens if we lose, do you have everything you need?” Military commanders aren’t loathe to say, very easily at least, “we really need a lot of help here Mr. President,” and when he creates a conversation like that, it’s not likely to come out.
Tomorrow night, after spending the day telling Congress that President Bush’s Iraq escalation should continue, Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will take their PR campaign to a more comfortable setting: Fox News.
On Fox News Sunday this morning, host Chris Wallace announced the interview:
WALLACE: Now a special program note. Tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. eastern on the Fox News Channel, Brit will have an exclusive interview with General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker about the state of the Iraq war and their testimony to Congress. Please be sure to watch.
In a recent report on Iraq, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office raised concerns that Gen. Petraeus’ numbers do not reflect the reality on the ground, specifically the levels of sectarian violence, which the watchdog said are much higher than Petraeus and the military have been saying.
After concerns were raised over the military’s statistics, it was announced that Petraeus wouldn’t issue a report after all. Now, in another attempt to avoid scrutiny, Petraeus will be taking his cooked stats to a friendly forum on Fox.
UPDATE II: Newshounds reports that Fox News has been hiding the truth about the Iraq war ahead of Petraeus’ testimony before Congress.
CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer said this morning that one of the lessons we learned from Vietnam “is that we were asking the wrong question” to our generals. “When we have to ask, are we winning? we’re probably losing. Victory is always obvious,” he said.
Let me preempt that question to General Petraeus. We haven’t lost this war, but we’re not winning it. We’re hanging on. Victory would be obvious. Iraqi families would be strolling the streets of Baghdad, and Osama bin Laden would be walking out of a cave somewhere with his hands up.
Instead of that question, let’s hope the general will be asked what we so often forgot during Vietnam: Is this worth the cost in lives and money?
Tomorrow, Gen. David Petraeus will testify to Congress to provide his perspective on the escalation in Iraq. The Washington Post reports this morning that the White House political office has been coordinating with Petraeus for months to market Bush’s strategy to the public:
Ed Gillespie, the new presidential counselor, organized daily conference calls at 7:45 a.m. and again late in the afternoon between the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the U.S. Embassy and military in Baghdad to map out ways of selling the surge.
Petraeus’ testimony should be seen in that light — another way of “selling the surge.” The American public, however, isn’t fooled about what’s going on. 66 percent say Bush will stick with his policy no matter what Petraeus says, and 53 percent say Petraeus will try to make things in Iraq look better than they are.
This morning, Bill Kristol spoke plainly about the White House’s intentions. “The truth is we are going to have over 100,000 troops in Iraq when George Bush leaves office,” Kristol said. He added “sober Democrats who want to be serious about” Iraq and “who want to think about the consequences of losing” are coming to the view that “of course you can’t just pull out.” Watch it:
The Washington Post reports that CentCom chief Admiral William Fallon has been pushing a plan to substantially slash the number of U.S. combat forces in Iraq, and has been engaged in a bitter clash with Petraeus:
[H]is efforts offended Petraeus’s team, which saw them as unwelcome intrusion on their own long-term planning. The profoundly different views of the U.S. role in Iraq only exacerbated the schism between the two men.
“Bad relations?” said a senior civilian official with a laugh. “That’s the understatement of the century. … If you think Armageddon was a riot, that’s one way of looking at it.”
Only “sober and serious” flacks for the White House believe that a long-term presence in Iraq is a strategically sound decision.
In an interview with Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, Newsweek correspondent Babak Dehghanpisheh — who works in Baghdad — dismissed the rosy reports of congressional delegations that visit Iraq for brief periods of time. From the interview:
DEHGHANPISHEH: You know, I don’t know of any Westerners who go strolling around the streets of Baghdad, and unless you do have what you mentioned; a convoy of Humvees or choppers to back you up for protection. Then I think it would be suicidal.
UYGUR: You think it would be suicidal? So, if you’re a Westerner, the idea of going out for a stroll in Baghdad, you’re calling it suicidal. Your chances of getting killed or kidnapped is incredibly high?
Babak Dehghanpisheh: I would say it’s a hundred percent.
During his “surprise visit” to Iraq earlier this month, President Bush met with Sattar Abu Risha, the head of the Anbar Salvation Council who “has a rather unsavory reputation as one of the shadiest figures in the Sunni community.” Time magazine wrote that “Sheikh Sattar, whose tribe is notorious for highway banditry, is also building a personal militia, loyal not to the Iraqi government but only to him.” Marc Lynch writes, “It’s kind of humiliating to watch an American President get rolled by a two bit, corrupt petty shaykh.” More depressingly:
According to one widely disseminated account of their meeting, Bush acted shocked when Abu Risha complained about Sunnis being killed in Baghdad because of their names, claiming he had never heard of such things. … [I]f true, what an astonishingly depressing admission of ignorance of one of the most important aspects of the Iraqi situation: he has never heard of the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad.
On Friday, 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden issued a new videotape in which he said, among other statements, that he will “escalate the killing and fighting against” Americans.
Yesterday, CNN Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena compared bin Laden’s tape to the writings of an “angry blogger”:
An obvious news junkie with a lot of time on his hands he makes several references to current affairs proof that the videotape is a new one. … At times he comes off like an angry blogger chastising Americans for electing President Bush twice and the Democrats for not doing more to stop the Iraq war.
The media continue to equate progressives with terrorists, echoing the rhetoric of the Bush administration. As ThinkProgress highlighted earlier today, New York Times columnist David Brooks yesterday said that in the newest tape, bin Laden sounds like he has been “reading lefty blogs.”
Right-wing bloggers have also joined in. At Hot Air, Allahpundit claimed bin Laden sounded like a “socialist icon,” invoking many of the same passages Brooks did. At Political Vindication, Uncle Seth the Noble went further, claiming bin Laden sounded like Daily Kos’s Markos Moulitsas. Frank J, a Pajamas Media blogger, concluded “Kos has to get this guy as a diarist before HuffPo does.”
E-mail CNN and request that the network stop equating progressive bloggers with bin Laden.
(HT: TP commenter Dan)
UPDATE: In 2004, Arena baselessly claimed that there is “some speculation that Al Qaeda believes it has a better chance of winning in Iraq if John Kerry is in the White House.”
UPDATE II: On his radio show Friday, John Gibson compared MSNBC Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment segment to bin Laden’s tape.
In an interview with the AP, outgoing White House Press Secretary Tony Snow claimed that the United States is now winning in Iraq:
“If you had asked two months ago, ‘Is the surge succeeding?’ people would have said, ‘Ah, we’re getting killed.’ I mean literally,” White House press secretary Tony Snow said in an interview. “But now it’s very obvious that on the military side there has been some profound progress. And that progress also has real political implications in terms of the Iraqi people standing up to the folks who have been trying to blow up the government.”
Attempting to drum up public support for the war in Iraq in July, President Bush referred to al Qaeda 95 times in a single speech, claiming the war in Iraq has become the central front in the fight against al Qaeda (AQI):
There’s also a debate about al Qaeda’s role in Iraq. Some say that Iraq is not part of the broader war on terror. They complain when I say that the al Qaeda terrorists we face in Iraq are part of the same enemy that attacked us on September the 11th. … I say that there will be a big defeat in Iraq and it will be the defeat of al Qaeda.
But in a new report, the Congressional Research Service notes that attacks from al Qaeda are only a small percentage of the violence in Iraq, criticizing the Bush administration’s statistics and noting that this false reporting on AQI has increased since Bush’s “surge” began:
Increasingly in 2007, U.S. commanders have seemed to equate AQ-I with the insurgency, even though most of the daily attacks are carried out by Iraqi Sunni insurgents.
Similarly, ret. Gen. James Jones, author of a major report on Iraqi security forces, acknowledged to Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) this week that 98 percent of violence in Iraq is “Iraqis fighting amongst Iraqis”:
BAYH: [T]wo percent or fewer of the adversaries that we’re facing in Iraq and that the Iraqis are facing in Iraq are foreign jihadis or AQI affiliates, [and] 98 percent or more are Iraqis fighting amongst Iraqis for the future of Iraq. Is that consistent with your understanding?
JONES: I think we would agree with that. Yes.
Watch it:var flvbayhalqaeda32024016055 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/09/bayhalqaeda.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvbayhalqaeda32024016055', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvbayhalqaeda32024016055.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvbayhalqaeda32024016055.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvbayhalqaeda32024016055.write('flvbayhalqaeda32024016055');
Washington Monthly reports that the percentage of violence in Iraq that is sourced to al Qaeda do not correspond to the Bush administration’s overestimates.
Fred Thompson “puzzled Iowans yesterday” by insisting an Al Qaeda smoking ban was one reason Sunni tribes have broken with al Qaeda:
“They said, ‘You gotta quit smoking,’” Thompson explained to a questioner asking about progress in Iraq during a town hall-style meeting. […]
Thompson’s tale of a smokers’ revolt baffled some in the audience of about 150 who came to decide whether the former Tennessee senator is ready for prime time.
“I don’t know what that was about,” said Jim Moran, 72, who had driven from nearby McCook Lake, S.D.
Earlier, ThinkProgress offered another rationale: The prospect of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in late 2006 may have been responsible for spurring Sunni efforts against al Qaeda.
Last night on PBS’ The NewsHour, New York Times columnist David Brooks compared 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden’s latest video message to “lefty blogs,” saying the al Qaeda head is like “one of these childish people posting rants at the bottom of the page.” He then went to describe why he drew such a comparison:
You read this thing, and it’s like he’s been sitting around reading lefty blogs, and he’s one of these childish people posting rants at the bottom the page, you know, Noam Chomsky and all this stuff.
You can’t help read it and not laugh at it, occasionally, because it is just absurd. It’s flying this way, and that way, weird conspiracy theories, and mortgages, global warming. He throws it all in there.
Brooks’ comments are part of an effort by prominent right-wing voices to try to tie Osama bin Laden to the left. At Hot Air, Allahpundit claimed bin Laden sounded like a “socialist icon,” invoking many of the same passages Brooks did. At Political Vindication, Uncle Seth the Noble went further, claiming bin Laden sounded like Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas:
Osama’s Left wing platitudes stand out remarkably in this transcript! After reading this, who do you think he is pulling for in the next election…. Republicans or Democrats? Seriously, would this not pump up the entire Democratic Party base if this speech were given at next year’s convention? I could see Markos ‘Screw Them’ Moulitsas break dancing in the background as the cheers and applauses roared in from the Democratic diehards. Can you hear them? “Osama for President!”
Frank J, a Pajamas Media blogger, concludes “Kos has to get this guy as a diarist before HuffPo does.”
Considering bin Laden’s threat yesterday to “escalate the killing and fighting against” America, Brooks and his fellow conservatives’ attempts at humor — and that’s a charitable reading of their words — are especially insulting, as it impugns not only the patriotism, but also the character and intelligence of literally millions of daily participants in the progressive blogosphere.
The New York Times reports today that “General Petraeus arrived quietly on Tuesday night” in military housing in Ft. Myer, VA, “with a small team that included his brain trust.” “He has spent long hours in those quarters studying three large binders of classified statistics, maps and analysis, and will head to the Pentagon on Sunday for a final dress rehearsal, including tough questioning, in a process known in the military as a ‘murder board.’”
UPDATE: “Members of Congress urged the Pentagon yesterday to declassify its data on sectarian killings, just days before General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, is expected to report a dramatic decrease in the level of violence between the Sunni and Shi’ite sects.”
“Rumsfeld will serve on a task force of scholars and experts who will focus on issues pertaining to ‘ideology and terror,’ the conservative think tank announced Friday in a press release.”
Hoover director John Raisian said Rumsfeld will offer strategic direction on how the U.S. should proceed in a post 9/11 world. “I have asked Don to join the distinguished group of scholars that will pursue new insights on the direction of thinking that the United States might consider going forward.”
You have to hand it to Hoover — post 9/11 “ideology and terror” is what Rumsfeld knows best. Here’s his impressive resume:
– Called Iraq war critics “quitters” who “blame America first” and “cannot stomach a tough fight”
– Claimed insurgent violence increases “in the spring, summer and fall months”
– Warned terrorists were carrying out violence because they wanted a change in leadership here in the U.S.
– Said war critics were manipulated by bin Laden’s “media committees“
Rumsfeld has previously said he plans to open a research foundation of his own to teach about “U.S. engagement in world affairs.”
The Hoover Institution boasts of having a roster full of luminaries of the right, including Dinesh D’Souza, Victor Davis Hanson, and Condoleezza Rice. Founded by President Herbert Hoover in 1919, the Institution is funded in large part by right-wing philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife.