Monday, September 10, 2007

Petraeus & Crocker on Fox with Brit Hume

The frantic Democratic TV & Op-Ed blitz began late last week when the Dems found their own congresspeople, including Sen. Dick Durbin, coming back from Iraq & Petraeus's briefings admitting that things are getting better. In their resolute irresolution, the Democrats then decided what they do best, parade out their BIG SMEAR machinery that proved so useful after they themselves used the tactic on Sen. Joe McCarthy back in my youth, then claimed it was his smears that motivated their righteous counter-smear. As usual, a judge did the Dems' dirty work and the three Dem networks of the day proceeded to destroy McCarthy while ignoring the very real threat he had over-exaggerated---the Red Menace.

But so much for ancient history. Old habits die hard and the Dems, when threatened with a fight or flight situation, verbally fight and then militarily choose flight. Petraeus's sober-sided briefings in Iraq were so convincing that the Dems tried to destroy his reputation using their secret Soros-cide machine to smear him and accuse him of cooking the books. Of course, this is typical Democratic slander, but let's take a short look at what Petraeus & Crocker did say in their briefing on Fox News tonight.

Now for a little boring background. Iraq's situation has been troublesome since Saddam began his drive to become the new Nasser after he seized power in the early '70s. The Sunni ascendancy in Iraq was kept in power by endlessly suppressing the 60% Shi'ite population with harsh dictatorial terror. Long before Al Qaeda, terror and violence ruled Iraq.

After Saddam successfully evaded 17 UN Resolutions after the Gulf War, it appeared that he would be let off the hook by convincing the UN to lift its sanctions on Oil for Food and let his oil revenues return unhindered by any real supervision or foreign surveillance.

After 911, Bush & his two-man kitchen cabinet on foreign policy decided to invade Iraq to remove the single largest threat to stability in the Middle East, [and this threat exceeded Iran & Arab/Israel]. The problem after the successful invasion was the troubling disappearance of Saddam's Chemical & Biological weapons & the virtual non-existence of his nuclear-weapon development program. This in itself would have been a surmountable obstacle, but Rumsfeld/Cheney decided to snatch complete control of the Reconstruction of Iraq from Gen. Jay Garner and his team of Arabists, all old hands in the region who had spent two years under Tom Warrick putting together an elaborate phased return to democracy.

According to Michael Gordon & Gen. Trainor in Cobra II, Rumsfeld nixed the Garner team by saying "we need fresh ideas." And then installed Jerry Bremer, a Kissinger Associate, as head of the Provisional Government. At the same time, a co-ambassadorship with linguistic & regional expert Zalmay Khalilzad was vetoed by Rumsfeld after Bremer lobbied successfully inside the Beltway. Which finally brings me to my main point.

Until Gen. Petraeus succeeded Gen. Abizaid, the major influence guiding Iraq was installing a democratic government, made exceeding difficult by the insurgency engendered when Bremer simultaneously allowed the Iraqi Army to disband and insisted on De-Baathification, following Bremer's Europeanist template of post-World War II Germany and Japan. The unfortunate consequence was the virtual denuding of Iraq's expertise in security and in government administration. Making an insurrection, especially one aided by the foreign Al Qaeda elements, inevitable.

But after the election of a government, Iraq was actually moving slowly, thought unsurely,towards some sort of new political configuration and the insurrection was sputtering.

Gen Petraeus says that the escalation of the Iraqi situation to a near Civil War was achieved by Al Qaeda with the atrocious bombing of a Shi'ite Holy Site in Samarra, the mosque with the Golden Dome. This enraged the Shiites and brought Muqtada Al Sadr, who was first among equals among the Shiite majority in Parliament and virtually controlled the figurehead PM into full force with his militias.

Tonight Petraeus says the mosque attack did push the conflict between Sunni & Shiite to a new level and used charts and power-point well to demonstrate escalation. Then, however, a breakthough came when AQ began to control parts of Al Anbar with an iron hand, employing violent tactics against the Sunni tribal chiefs.

Petraeus did not mention it, but the tribals got advice and generous aid from Sunni neighbors Jordan and Saudi Arabia, both of whom are very closely related to the Iraqi Sunnis by long tribal and family affiliations. For instance, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia's mother was a Shammar, a very important tribe in western Iraq. That's not important to westerners, but to peninsular and tribal Arabs, these affiliations are very central to their outlook on policy.

Petraeus pointed out that the progress made in Anbar was not only because AQ overstepped their political boundaries by imposing religious restrictions. A major element was building police and province authority from the bottom up.

Crocker pointed out that the resulting local autonomy that is more or less successfully evicting AQ from Anbar and Salahuddin and Nineveh and Nimrod provinces has reverberated in Baghdad. This is the Iraqi version of States' Rights, a concept which in the Middle East means devolution and possible allegiance to a neighboring state or ethnic group. Baghdad is fearful of the consequences.

But Petraeus and Crocker are correct that even before the "surge," the situation on the ground has been slowly on the mend since the disastrous Golden Dome mosque attack in January of 2006. Petraeus is right to ask for a reassessment next July, if I heard him right, and Crocker thinks that by then the benchmarks set by Congress might be better.

The cheerleaders in Washington who are rooting for failure probably discounted the sober quiet message of the two Americans because their nay-saying will be proven wrong.

But I'm sure that the quiet presentation of Petraeus and Crocker convinced many serious people on the fence that there may still be a chance for success.

And as Brit Hume asked presciently, what happens if the final result is an American success?

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