Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More on the September surpise

Interesting post by Faiz Shakir at AlterNet (http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/60982/), exposing again that the report General David Petraeus will be presenting to Congress in September on the "progress" of the "surge" is of questionable credibility. In addition to the previous disclosure that Gen. Petraeus won't be, you know, actually writing the report, but instead allowing the White House to do so, now reports from the Washington Post and other sources disclose that Gen. Petraeus has been trying to soft-sell the violence in Iraq to make the surge look more like it's working.

Never mind the fact that whatever military progress the surge makes is only relevant in that it "sets the table" for political reconciliation that we have seen precious little of. Never mind the fact that the current President has a habit of surrounding himself with cronies that are far more interested in being a "loyal Bushie" (see, e.g., Alberto Gonzales, Harriet Myers, and "heckuva job" Brownie). Never mind the fact that the current President says he listens to the generals on the ground, then fires them when those generals tell him something he doesn't want to hear.

Look, it's pretty obvious that this September report was just a stall for time back in January when the surge was announced. There's no doubt that whatever comes out in this "report" the White House ghost-writes for Gen. Petraeus will be used to argue for more time to "let the surge work" and keep the war going until the January 2009.

Assuming, of course, there's nothing done to attempt to extend the current President's reign beyond that time ...

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This post, written by Faiz Shakir, originally appeared on Think Progress

The Washington Post reports that Gen. David Petraeus, after reviewing an early draft of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, succeeded in altering the document's judgments about the violence in Iraq:

The NIE, requested by the White House Iraq coordinator, Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, in preparation for the testimony, met with resistance from U.S. military officials in Baghdad, according to a senior U.S. military intelligence officer there. Presented with a draft of the conclusions, Petraeus succeeded in having the security judgments softened to reflect improvements in recent months, the official said.

The first line of the key judgments of the NIE reported that there had been "measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq's security situation," but cautioned that violence will remain high over the next six to 12 months. The Washington Post's report today suggests that the intelligence community's initial judgment about the security situation was harsher.

Petraeus and other military officials have repeatedly suggested that sectarian killings in Iraq are down, touting the decline as proof of security progress in Iraq. Media reports, however, dispute the military claims, and the military has thus far refused to provide its statistics to resolve the matter:

U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the Iraqi capital is down 50 percent. But U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don't support the claim. [McClatchy, 8/15/07]

[T]he death toll from sectarian attacks around the country is running nearly double the pace from a year ago. ... Brig. Gen. Richard Sherlock, deputy director for operational planning for the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said violence in Iraq "has continued to decline and is at the lowest level since June 2006." He offered no statistics to back his claim. [AP, 8/25/07]

Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) suggested recently that the White House would "tweak" the upcoming "Petraeus report." But if Petraeus is so willing to alter intelligence findings, it appears the White House may not have much tweaking to do.

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