Thursday, September 06, 2007

Questioning Saint Pet

By Cernig

Today, Captain Ed and other conservative commentators are wondering where the Democrat's sudden distrust of General Petreaus has come from. Ed writes:
If anyone wants a lesson in how to lose a reputation for diligence, honor, and honesty, all they need to do is get confirmed by Congress for a vital role in American security. Eight months after the Senate confirmed David Petraeus as commander of American forces in Iraq, the same Senators who voted for his confirmation have now begun a character-assassination campaign to discredit him.

...Of particular note is the fact that the same Senators who didn't cast a single vote against this highly-regarded commander taking over the effort in Iraq suddenly feel that Petraeus would conspire with George Bush to deliver a dishonest report to Congress.
Now Ed has a partial point here - Democratic senators did indeed vote to confirm Saint Pet. That was a mistake, brought on by their spineless wish to avoid being accused of "not supporting the troops", of being "defeatocrats' and of being - as always, the biggest Dem bugbear - "weak on national security".

Yet, had those Democratic senators bothered to look, there was plenty of evidence that the sainted general was actually a pet general even back then. In particular, his own CYA rhetoric which also aided Bush's re-election campaign.

As my colleague Eric Martin points out at his own blog:
Despite the reliance on - and touting of - the veracity of Petraeus's word, there are strong indications that Petraeus himself is not exactly the objective, disinterested, straight shooter that he is portrayed to be. In the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Korb (scroll to middle of page) makes a compelling case that Petraeus has repeatedly overstepped ethical lines in order to interfere in the political sphere in favor of the Republican Party, and the war in Iraq generally speaking.

In particular, Korb cites a 2004 Op-Ed (which is reposted by Brent Budowsky at Chez Larry Johnson). In this Op-Ed - released at the climax of the presidential campaign - Petraeus gushes about the successes in Iraq in terms of training a non-sectarian, nationalist military and police force. As Budowsky points out, though, Petraeus was either lying or simply displayed a galling lack of judgment and analytical prowess. The claims made by Petraeus in that column have been eviscerated by subsequent events. Regardless, injecting such a tendentious column into a presidential campaign in obvious favor of one side is not what a high ranking military officer should be doing.
That Saint Pet was gushing, for self-serving reasons no doubt but ones which also helped the Bush narrative, is borne out by yesterday's assessment by the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq. The report found that the Iraqi army is unable to take over internal security from U.S. forces in the next 12 to 18 months and "cannot yet meaningfully contribute to denying terrorists safe haven," while the Iraqi police are a "dysfunctional" force riddled with sectarianism and corruption and should be disbanded.

Closely related to Petreaus' failure while he was crowing success in training Iraqi forces come questions of his incompetence and failure at staving of U.S. military officer's connivance in massive Iraqi corruption while those officers were under his command and dealing with matters to which he had been assigned command responsibility. All of these problems were known at the time of Petreaus' confirmation, if not being given major media attention. Now, recent investigations have implicated a close aide of Petreaus' in the loss of hundreds of thousands of weapons - many of which ended up in the hands of terrorists - and hundreds of millions of dollars. Other US officers are likewise facing charges or under investigation. Meanwhile, Saint Pet is uttering rubbish about kicking hundreds of tons of weaponry out of helicopters. Either he's incompetent or he deliberately looked the other way. In his book last year, Allawi himself wrote that he felt someone at the highest levels of the US administration in Iraq had to have been complicit in the corruption for it to remain un-noticed so long.

To suggest there were no grounds for questioning Petreaus' record is naivete to say the least. There were plenty of grounds. The truth is that Democratic senators, beguiled by the myth of military honor, were too afraid to ask the hard questions. As if a fourth star made a man instantly and magically more honest and honorable than a major, a colonel, a senator or a president - when as we all know only those willing to play politics get a third star in the first place.

Since assuming overall command in Iraq, Saint Pet's record hasn't been any better. He has presided over and frequently participated in, a Potemkin deception over levels of violence, casualty counts, the level of involvement and danger represented by AQI and Iran and even the way in which the forthcoming report to Congress was billed as the Petreaus Report when it was never to be any such thing.

No, there are good reasons to question the integrity, honesty and impartiality of General David Petreaus, and the presence of a bit of metal on his collar is not sufficient to gainsay those reasons.

Update Brent Budowsky has all the questions needing to be asked when Saint Pet gets in front of Congress. Read it all, but here are the ones that focus directly on Ptereaus himself and his Surge.
Do you agree that the government of Iraq is indebted to, and dependent on, Shiite factions that control death squads and militia that favor Shiite military victory in sectarian wars that have raged for hundreds of years?

Do you agree that many of the same forces and factions that we support through the Iraqi government are recipients of support from the government of Iran?

Are we not today providing money, weapons and bribes directly or indirectly to both sides in the Shiite-Sunni sectarian war?

In your estimation, general, on a scale of 1 to 10, what is the probability that the current Iraqi government will legitimately seek and achieve reconciliation between Shiites and Sunnis?

If there is no reconciliation, do you agree that the ultimate result of American support of former Sunni insurgents who were recently killing Americans, and of the Iraqi government with deep ties to Iran and Shiite militia and death squads, will be increased carnage, bloodshed and ethnic cleansing made even more catastrophic because we are providing weapons and money to both sides today?

...Do you regret the op-ed you wrote for The Washington Post in September 2004, shortly before the presidential election, in which you made dramatically over-optimistic forecasts for the Iraqi army, police and government leadership three full years ago?

What lessons have you learned and what changes have you made from your previous tour of duty in Iraq, when far too few in the Iraqi military were trained under your command, when far too many weapons were stolen or lost under your command, and when your September 2004 forecasts were so mistaken compared to the realities of the Iraqi military and police at the time you made them?
The rest, while Petreaus can claim they are above his pay-grade, are just as good.

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