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Tag—It’s Your Problem

Posted on Sep 10, 2007

By Eugene Robinson

WASHINGTON—The next six months in Iraq are crucial—and always will be. That noise you heard Monday on Capitol Hill was the can being kicked further down the road leading to January 2009, when George W. Bush gets to hand off his Iraq fiasco to somebody else.

    It’s clear by now that playing for time is the real White House strategy for Iraq. Everything else is tactical maneuver and rhetorical legerdemain—nothing up my sleeve—with which the administration is buying time, roughly in six-month increments. Appearing before a joint hearing called by the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, Gen. David H. Petraeus probably won Bush the respite he wanted when he said that U.S. military objectives “are in large measure being met.”

    Never mind whether those objectives make sense. Oh, and if anyone mentions that Congress is supposed to decide what wars this nation fights, not generals or diplomats? Attack them for impugning our nation’s finest—and give that can another kick.

    Remember when the Decider asked for his troop escalation—calling it a “surge”—and explained what he was trying to achieve? The idea, back in March, was that 21,500 additional pairs of boots on the ground would so dramatically improve the security situation, especially in Baghdad, that the “unity” government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki could take dramatic steps toward political reconciliation. That was the key—a political settlement that would mark the beginning of the end of a de facto sectarian civil war.

    Just give us until September and you’ll see, Bush promised. Six months.


Square, Site wide

    Well, for the record, the number of extra troops ended up being more like 30,000. And it turned out that the Shiite-dominated government had neither the wherewithal nor the inclination to fashion an equitable deal with the Sunni minority on issues such as how to share oil revenues. Various Sunni and Shiite factions made clear they had no faith in Maliki as a leader or an honest broker. Far from improving, the political situation in Iraq deteriorated markedly.

    U.S. officials say that sectarian killings in Baghdad have declined, but journalists point out that many neighborhoods have already been subjected to ethnic cleansing. Petraeus showed Congress a chart Monday demonstrating that civilian deaths nationwide had fallen—but didn’t mention that most of the decline came before the “surge” troops arrived. Meanwhile, according to the United Nations, an estimated 60,000 refugees are fleeing the country each month.

    But Petraeus, Bush’s handpicked commander, intelligently recognized that something interesting was happening in Anbar province, once a deadly haven for Sunni insurgents and al-Qaida terrorists. Sunni tribal sheiks were getting fed up with the al-Qaida foreigners and seemed ready to kick them out.

    Petraeus did everything he could to encourage this trend, pouring largess into Anbar to forge new relationships with warlords who used to be bitter enemies. Once the local Sunni leaders decided—for now—they would rather work with the Americans than shoot at them, attacks on U.S. forces in the province fell sharply.

    However, this works directly against the “strategy” of counting on the central government in Baghdad to work everything out. Maliki initially reacted with alarm at seeing the Americans strengthen the hand of the Sunnis in Anbar. Unable to do anything about it, he changed tactics and tried to take credit for the drop in violence.

    One funny thing about the improved security situation that Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker described: Iraqis don’t seem to have noticed.

    In a poll of Iraqis commissioned by ABC News, the BBC and the Japanese network NHK—released Monday before Petraeus’ testimony—31 percent of Iraqis said security in their local areas had worsened over the past six months, as opposed to just 24 percent who said it had improved. A full 61 percent said security had worsened in the country overall, against only 11 percent who said it had improved. Only 22 percent said things in general were going well in Iraq (down from 44 percent in November 2005), and just 23 percent thought things would get better over the coming year (as opposed to 69 percent in 2005).

    Some 63 percent of Iraqis polled said the U.S. invasion was wrong, 47 percent said that coalition forces “should leave now,” and 57 percent said attacks on U.S. forces were “acceptable.”

    Never mind what the Iraqis think. On with the new new strategy, which is to bypass the national government and work from the bottom up, making deals with local power brokers. That should be good for, what, another six months?

    Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)

    © 2007, Washington Post Writers Group

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By Swami, September 13, 2007 at 12:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What’s the contemporary adage…When you do the same thing again and again, you get the same results?  The circus in DC is just another permutation of the spin we’re all caught in.  When will we wake up and begin to create an authentic revolution in our politics and culture?  Answer: probably not until we suffer greatly and get uncomfortable.  We’re all too soothed and content with our possessions, point of view, ideas, etc., caught in our own fishbowl with no way to see beyond ourselves.  The Sufis remind us not to confuse the finger pointing at the moon with the moon itself.

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By Dale Headley, September 13, 2007 at 11:36 am Link to this comment
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George Bush figures he’s got it made by “kicking the can”, as it were.  If we experience total failure in Iraq - a failure for which he set the stage - Bush will place the blame on his successor (or Bill Clinton).  If we succeed, he will claim that it was his steadfastness all along that won the day.  He deludes himself in imagining that history will vindicate him.  But history will see the truth: that he is the worst president - BY FAR - in our nation’s history.

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By PatrickHenry, September 12, 2007 at 4:36 pm Link to this comment

The Iraqi people have seen invaders come and go since before Alexander.  Putting up with the conquerer de jure is in their DNA. 

There are generations upon generations of families who have been there since before the USA was founded.

I am hard pressed to believe that this populace is dependant upon the US military being there to hold things together.

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By ocjim, September 12, 2007 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment

By any comparative measure of integrity, intelligence, candor, stewardship—whatever measure you care to use, Bush is an abject failure.

Does the media notice? Do critics? Does Congress?

To make matters absolutely miserable, other so-called leaders follow suit. The only thing of concern for Bush’s critics in Congress when Petraeus testified, was their own agendas and making sure they scored points for themselves.

Who/What is forgotten? Millions who are impacted by the war: troops, friends, family, the poor and vulnerable whose needs are trumped by the war, our infrastructure, health care, global warming, and our future due to the idiotic Bush borrowing now supported by Congres.

Is anyone getting the picture?

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By mackTN, September 11, 2007 at 3:50 pm Link to this comment

From Thomas Billis:

“Am I the only one who does not understand why there are never any Iraqis testifying before Congress…”

No.  You aren’t the only one.  If Iraqis are making so much progress militarily, why don’t any of them join Petraeus at the table?  Even in Bremer’s NYTimes OPED, when he was sadly trying to defend the decision to disband the military, he counts off all the people he consulted about this decision—not one person from Iraq was on that list (not even Chalabi, who conned them and now they are too embarassed to bring his name up again).  What happened to “these people are not our enemies?” 

When the U.S. wants to hide behind someone, they get Maliki to do it for them—like execute Saddam.  “After all, they are a sovereign nation,” they proclaim.  Except when it is time to plot a direction, make the real decisions.  These guys won’t even say U.S. Occupation—they are still hiding behind a “multinational coalition.” 

Are we that stupid?

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By dick, September 11, 2007 at 11:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The power elite, of which the Congress and Admin are a part,  want and get continual war.It’s profitable and allows tight control of the masses. The chatter, hot air,  hypocrisy ,and posturing can not mask the truth. The future will be much like the past few years.

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By Eric L Prentis, September 11, 2007 at 10:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

President Bush’s real objective for the military surge in Iraq is to keep the unjustified, illegal, US preemptive war of aggression and occupation going and have a substantial number of US troops in Iraq when he leaves office in 2009 so that he can pass this mess off to the next administration. President Bush can follow a strategy that 70% of the American voters oppose because neither he nor VP Cheney will run for office again. President Bush’s disastrous political strategy in Iraq is fine for him and the VP but what about all the Republicans who have to run in 2008 in the face of a very unpopular war. If Congressional Republicans do not throw President Bush under the Iraqi bus they will be the permanent minority party for the next 30 years, so sad for those Republicans running.

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By SamSnedegar, September 11, 2007 at 10:34 am Link to this comment

Petraeus is no bigger liar than any of the democrats or the writer of this piece . . . congrats to Mr. Robinson for saying the word “oil,” but he didn’t say it in the context of STEALING it, which is what we have to do . . .

The reason we can’t talk about it is because to admit that we went there for oil, stay there for oil, kill for oil, covet for oil, lie for oil is to admit that none of us give a shit what Jesus would do; we want to covet, lie, steal, and kill at will so we can keep on guzzling gas with our cars and heating our homes, along with making all the solvents and pharmaceuticals we do with oil distillates.

For all his braininess, Petraeus is an arrogant and very stupid slob. Conversely, a counterpart of his in Wesley Clark can talk sense instead of puffery, and so can Barry McCaffery, both of whom get my cheers for being honest and straight, something which of course Petraeus cannot do . . .

Who can be so stupid as a smart man in a bind?

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By THOMAS BILLIS, September 11, 2007 at 9:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Here is something I do not understand.The democrats run Congress and can call as witnesses anyone they want.Am I the only one who does not understand why there are never any Iraqis testifying before Congress.Since it is their country wouldn’t the Congress be interested in their perspective on these events.I know the administration will never run out of lackeys willing to tell us how good everything is going in Iraq but I never hear from Iraqis in testimony before Congress.I keep hearing the numbers about Iraqi’s leaving Iraq and Iraqi’s wanting us out but the Democrats never put a human face on it.All we get are “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” Petraeus and Crocker.

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By Mudwollow, September 11, 2007 at 8:38 am Link to this comment

Thank you reality news provider, Truthdig.

Looking back on the antiwar protests of the 1960s, it’s impressive how “our” permawar propaganda machine has matured. Back in the 60s LSD was blamed for ridiculous notions such as no more war, woman’s rights and the ecology movement.

But the Goebbels protégés who put on this absurd charade are somehow pitiful. Even though general Betrayus was never sworn in I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him and the sickly shill next to him. They know they’re full of bull shit and we know they’re full of bullshit and the uncomfortable part is that they know that we know that they are full of bull shit.

The pro-war propaganda machine has succeeded in homogenizing both political parties along with the vast majority of all media sources. And even with this most recent “surge” in propaganda diarrhea fewer people believe the BS than ever. Wonder if that happened to the third Reich also.

Still looking for any and all wild assed ideas of what to do about it, how to fix it. LSD apparently helped in the 60s. Not at all sure what’s going to do it in 2007,8,9?

No matter. Back to work. Taxes to pay. Wars are expensive. Drop the kids off. They already owe more money than can be imagined by their parents.

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By felicity, September 11, 2007 at 8:31 am Link to this comment

I’m losing it, or my computer has lost it.  That’s a 5% share of its oil revenues.

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By felicity, September 11, 2007 at 8:28 am Link to this comment

Most people agreed, even most military, that a political settlement was what had to happen in Iraq.  So why are we focusing on the success or non-success of our military in Iraq?

#99729 I think the Production Sharing Agreements are still in place whereby foreign companies will end up in control of 64% of Iraqi oil.  In fact, Iraq will be lucky if it winds up with more than a 5&#xsh;are of its oil revenues.

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By GW=MCHammered, September 11, 2007 at 8:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Tag — It is <u>Our</u> Problem

Fear tactics, celebrity status, polls and bad actors have turned the public pussy. We’d take GOP-DEM abuse another ten years if they told us to. The Two-Party Rulers and we share the same disease and the healing prescription is that both parties must go. What are we afraid of, some other party will screw up the nation?

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By farmertx, September 11, 2007 at 6:38 am Link to this comment

I have to agree that the Democrat’s have been very unimpressive, aside from their posturing for politics as usual.
For whatever reason, they fail to understand that politics as usual is what got us into this mess and it sure ain’t gonna get us out of it.
None of the front runner’s are that interested in doing anything except opposing the Shrub.
Coming up with viable plans seems to be beyond them. Working to wake up the lock step Republican’s is all but impossible, granted, but it sure seems that more could be accomplished if Party politics could be set aside and doing what is best for the country takes its place.
Continued hearings and investigations that will acheive nothing worthwhile is their forte, as it makes the Republican’s look bad.
The fact that everybody able to think for themselves already knows that is a moot point to the Democrat’s.
They will continue to dodge Impeachment for reasons known only to them.
And that is the only way that anything will be changed before the end of Shrubs’ term. Assuming that the Shootist has no plan to use his hidden powers to declare Martial Law.

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By Casy, September 11, 2007 at 5:03 am Link to this comment

The Democrats will be stepping in it. Watch Bush kick the can that is the Iraq mess down to 2008 up until the elections and watch how the incompetent Democrats lose again in the ensuing media blitz. I bet the Republicans will even find some way of blaming the Democrats for failure in Iraq and the Democrats will somehow fail to fend it off. How on earth they can manage to lose the argument every single time and let the Idiot-in-Chief have his way is beyond me. Even if the Democrats manage to take the presidency in 2008, don’t expect anything great from them. Contrary to what they want you to believe, they are weak, disjointed, and ineffective. The only reason they will win the White House in 2008 (and this is still not a foregone conclusion) is because they are taking over from what is arguably the worst presidency in this nation’s history.

I wish they would change leadership. Pelosi and Reid couldn’t organize a PTA meeting much less organize the Democrats in an effective manner. The best I can say is I am underwhelmed.

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By Marjorie L. Swanson, September 11, 2007 at 4:09 am Link to this comment

Kick the can far enough down the road so that if and probably when a Democrat sits in the Oval Office they will have to end Mr. Bush’s little fiasco in Iraq. Then when the ensuing enormous bloodbath happens, as opposed to the smaller blood bath happening now, the dimwitted, short attention-spanned American public will be “marketed” into believing that the whole debacle is the fault of the Democrats.

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By farmertx, September 11, 2007 at 3:57 am Link to this comment

I doubt that the Flag Officier’s in Iraq are allowed to watch any news except Faux News.
When our forces invaded Panama to arrest Noriega for the DEA, nation building was high on their list of things to accomplish.
They had plans in place for the aftermath of the fighting to prevent rioting and looting.
Those plans were conceived by the military. They did not come from the WH nor the Pentagon.
But, the Shootist, who was SecDef then, didn’t try and hand pick the invasion forces.
Panama is very different from Iraq in that there wasn’t three ethnic/religious groups vying for power and redress of past injustices.
All the more reason to have had a plan in place before invading Iraq.
But no Rummy says it was all somebody elses doing. The finger pointing will last a long time.
Bremmer dismantled the Iraqi police and military against Shrubs’ instructions not to do so. Naturally, Shrub had to award him a medal (one that used to have some meaning, until Shrub started handing them out) for disobeying orders.
Made sense to the Shrub. He always got rewarded for failure and lackluster performances.

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By coolrebel, September 11, 2007 at 1:37 am Link to this comment

we can’t stay in iraq, we can’t leave iraq, so we only have one choice - to change the nature of our mission in iraq.

our only strategic alternative is to withdraw to our new bases in-country, and instead of seeing the war as a nation-building effort, or part of the so-called war on terror, we should use our forces in iraq as a forward garrison strike force supporting NATO interests in the region. we have no choice but to let the iraqi civil war play out. 

this effort should be coupled with the transfer of US military resources currently in iraq to afghanistan to put pressure on the taliban, and support democratic change in pakistan.

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By P. T., September 11, 2007 at 12:34 am Link to this comment

Watching the Republicans follow Bush over the cliff is fascinating.

Democrats wouldn’t do that for one of their own; that is the good part about not having principles.  wink

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By cyrena, September 10, 2007 at 11:55 pm Link to this comment

A few other things they forgot to mention….

The Sunni Sheiks in Anbar Province had already taken on the al-Qaeda thugs, (the ones who were never there before the invasion and occupation) long before the “surge” was even announced.

He also failed to mention that the improved security is accompanied by concrete barrier walls topped with razor wire, surrounding the vast majority of the remaining population. They are “securely” imprisoned in their own neighborhoods, unable to conduct anything close to the daily activities involved with survival.

But, neither the General or the Ambassador mentioned anything about the Iraqis. And, they never do. I guess they didn’t have access to the same polls that have been conducted by the global media, and available in this piece from Mr. Robinson, not to mention at least a dozen other articles that I’ve read today.

Or, any of the other polls and/or surveys that have been conducted over the years, each time making it clear that the legitimate inhabitants of this nation don’t want us there.

The message from the General is that none of that matters. We aren’t leaving without the oil. And, while we might be getting closer and closer to it, (the private contractors are working as hard as they can), we still haven’t physically secured the actual infrastructure, nor have we yet been able to force the Iraqis to sign the formal documents that would allow the transnationals to move in with their own private “security forces”.

That’s the hold up.

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