McCain, sometimes honest to a fault, said(*) that early looting led to a series of events that are all well documented, for example as described in the book FIASCO.
The clip ended and I realized I was listening to Brian Lehrer (on listener-supported WNYC) who then introduced his guest, Thomas Hicks, author of FIASCO: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, Washington Post Iraq correspondent who has logged more time "in country" then any U.S. policy maker.
This was an amazing interview at a particularly crucial time, on the eve of Bush's State of The Union address and at a time when the violence in Iraq has escalated so horribly, including increasingly brazen attacks, it may well be that the insurgents are completely following DC politics and trying to ruin Bush politically.
As Hicks was explaining, the GOP exodus begun in October led by Senator Warner, the senior Republican member of the Armed Services Committee, usually the bellweather for the GOP Senate majority, also Senator Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam vet already outspoken against Bush's surge, as well as conservative Senator Brownback, one of the top 5 most visible Republicans running in '08, who said his change in heart comes directly after having visited Iraq.
It will be most telling to watch the 21 senators who are up for reelection in '08. Hicks says he pressed Saxby Chambliss after the senator publicly expressed concerns having to defend Iraq policy in a campaign, explaining the situation will be different by 2008, but the senator turned white and shook his head as he considered his prospects if we were still occupying without a major breakthrough.
And what of a breakthrough in Iraq? We are farther then ever today, as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as recently as last week himself opposed a surge and indeed had requested that US troops pull back, creating a "donut" around Baghdad and allowing Shi'ite led Iraqi forces to "clean things up".
What you say? Bush's troop surge doesn't even have the support of the "puppet" government? Evidently, Maliki and the Shia feel that they've already won the war and want to finish the ethnic cleansing. Shi'ite cleric Muktada al Sadr is said to have militia strength exceeding even that of the Iraqi government force and therefore is pulling Maliki's "real" strings.
Military officials are pessimistic about the "official" government force, believing it to be significantly compromised by not only anti-Sunni warriors, but also anti-US sympathisers, all keeping it on the "down low" - and playing us for dunces as we fund, train and arm them.
This spells disaster for peace and democracy after all this time. Bush is now in the position of diplomatically trying to pull the strings on Maliki. Commander David Petraeus will be his agent for this, bringing a unique credibility as a soldier-diplomat, himself a seasoned Vietnam vet, West Point grad and Princeton PhD.
Petraeus has been the lone success story in Iraq, succeeding to secure Mosul with a combination of transparency and his own line of communication going between his regional command and Syria to keep energy and fiber optic lines flowing, also juggling the presence of thousands of armed Kurds looking to protect their own interests.
In sharp contrast to other commands, Petraeus maintained a zero tolerance policy on detainee abuse. Setting the bar high for military ethics, he ensured MPs trained in detention regulations were the only ones left to watch prisoners and when a report of abuse did surface under his command, he shut down the entire division.
Connecting the dots with Seymour Hersch's revelations of intentional abuse and humiliation enabled by Rumsfeld's Undersecretary Stephen Cambone, this suggests Petraeus would have been trying to root out any operatives given "Operation Copper Green" clearance to divert from standard conduct in interrogations and prevent another Abu Ghraib.
Rather, Petraeus allowed local officials, clerics and professors weekly access to his prisoners, using a brand of transparency and outreach that quelled rumors, reduced reprisals and led to great regional stabilization.
Rumsfeld at one point actually pulled Petraeus out of Iraq for reassignment in Leavenworth, outraging McCain and top brass who felt this was the most able general on the ground. After jettisoning Rumsfeld, it seems Bush eventually came around, pinning another star on Petraeus and sending him in to do what at this point many consider an impossibility.
Churchill famously said that "The Americans can always be counted upon to do the right thing, after they've exhausted every other possibility." Petraeus, whose Princeton degree thesis was titled "The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam" has reportedly already agreed to operate transparently, allowing full Congressional oversight including closed biweekly briefings.
As he is expected to lay out in Armed Services Committee hearings, his intention is to have battalion commanders living out among the population rather then patrolling large US military bases. This seem rather obvious to me, though we are only today unraveling how impractical our plans in Iraq has thus far been.
As he demonstrated in Northern Iraq, it seems the path to progress and success is paved by circumventing the President. Petraeus was present when Senator Clinton met with Maliki recently in Iraq.
The Sunday shows this week showed an all points Republican effort to demand alternative plans offered by Democrats. Hicks notes that the Dems have too many different plans if anything, but are hesitant to push for traction on any particular one because the Dems don't need to stick their necks out politically at this point.
The continuation of the Republican-led war is melting public support for the GOP faster then anything they could do proactively.
This has led Republicans to charge that that the left is in league with the insurgents, although it's likely more a matter of Bush not listening to Anyone In The Whole World. At this late stage, Bush would probably be eager to replace his plan with any Democratic plan to see it fail and lay blame at the feet of its authors.
Ironically, the appointment of Commander Petraeus seems only to underscore how out of touch the Commander in Chief has been since this war's inception. This may signal the last throes of Bush's relevance, necessitating what many feel will be a de-emphasis on the Iraq war in his impending speech to America. Results of the polls following may touch off large scale Republican cutting and running.
As a "war president" this leaves one to wonder what he may turn his attention to. When his father's attempted intervention failed, it became clear to me that our current president is in a world of his own, less his former credibility, and that the State of the Union address, now absent of Bush's most persuasive speechwriter Michael Gerson may signal the swan song of a lame duck president marginalized by the consequence of fantasy meeting reality.
In closing, I'd like to share excerpts from Commander Petraeus' 328-page thesis, whose full title is "The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A Study of Military Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era" circa 1987. In part:
"We do not take the time to understand the nature of the society in which we are fighting, the government we are supporting, or the enemy we are fighting."
"Don't commit American troops, Mr. President unless...
1) You really have to (in which case, presumably, vital U.S. interests are at stake);
2) You have established clear-cut, attainable military objectives for American military forces (that is, more than just some fuzzy political goals).
3) You provide the military commander sufficient forces and the freedom necessary to accomplish his mission swiftly. (Remember, Mr. President, this may necessitate the mobilization of the reserve components -- perhaps even a declaration of war.)
4) You can ensure sufficient public support to permit carrying the commitment through to its conclusion."
For the military, in short, the debate over how and when to commit American troops abroad has become a debate over how to avoid, at all costs, another Vietnam"
*Media manipulation tactics exposed:
McCain, in his answer to Russert clearly began to talk faster when discussing tactical mistakes in Iraq. Politicians often speed up when they are trying to get off a topic, so pay special attention to what they say when they talk fast and closelytogetherbecausetheyaretryingto MANIPULATE YOU.
It usually means they've memorized and rehearsed pat responses, speeding up to intentionally skip ahead like a fast forward button, then changing inflection, speed and clarity when making points they want to. drum. into. your. HEAD.
For more on unmasking media manipulation, see "Deconstructing the media manipulation that infects America's core" at: