Category Archives: Iraq

McCain Thinks First Gulf War Was a Mistake (But Still Supports This One)

John McCain famously supports the war in Iraq. Today he said that the war in Iraq was about oil. Even CNN recognized this for the huge gaffe that it is — you just can't say that in the US, especially if it might be true. So they called his campaign and offered McCain a chance to explain/retract. And explain it he did: making it much worse.

See the clip for yourself.

McCain's explanation? Despite the context which pretty clearly refers to the current Iraq War, McCain now says he meant the First Gulf War—when the US came to the rescue of Kuwait after Iraq invaded it.

In other words, McCain's explanation is that what he was saying is that in a world where the US had energy independence he'd use that freedom to abandon allies like Kuwait if they were invaded, but would support a policy of attacking and occupying countries like Iraq when they don't invade their neighbors.

I. Am. Not. Making. This. Up.

In any rational media ecology this would be a million times worse than something your ex-pastor said. Can I at least hope for a little box on page one promoting the article on A24?

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Why Should Petraeus’s Confirmation Be a Cakewalk?

The SCLM is busy assuring me this morning that Gen. Petraeus's confirmation as the head of CenCom is a done deal.

Asked about Petraeus's prospects for Senate confirmation, Gates said he already had conferred with Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, as well as Senator John McCain of Arizona, a presidential candidate and ranking Republican on the panel, and Senator John Warner of Virginia, a top Republican voice on military issues.

`High Respect'

“I think they all have high respect for General Petraeus,'' Gates said. “He has clearly been successful in his current assignment, and so I don't really anticipate any problems.''

Levin limited his public comments to a statement saying he was “hoping to schedule a prompt confirmation hearing.''

McCain, a strong supporter of the U.S. military buildup in Iraq that Petraeus advocated and then commanded, called him “one of the great generals in American history'' who had achieved “dramatic success'' in Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was less welcoming. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said he will be “looking for credible assurances of a strong commitment to implementing a more effective national security strategy'' when the nomination comes before the Senate. Reid said the battles against the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda in Pakistan and the overall readiness of U.S. ground forces “have suffered as a result of the current costly Iraq strategy,'' requiring “fresh, independent and creative thinking.

Perhaps because the relevant committee is the generally pliant Armed Services Committee, the easy confirmation story may be correct. But why should Petraeus's confirmation be a cakewalk? There are three ways in which this appointment is unusual, and the combo ought to be enough to give one pause.

First, and perhaps least important, there's the Army policy issue. As I understand it, the practice in the Army is to rotate commanders in from outside the area, rather than promoting up from within. The Army justifies this on two grounds: first, it gives its top commanders the opportunity to develop a wider perspective. Second, it's a quiet way of getting rid of bad policies, as the new broom comes in and lets the bad ideas wither on the vine; promoting from within means that one gets more of the same, good or bad. I rate this 'least important' because I've long had doubts about the Army's rotation (or, if you prefer, revolving door) policy. We did it Vietnam, and it contributed to our failure there by creating a 'ticket-punching' mentality; there's a lot to be said for the WWII approach in which commanders were responsible for the consequences of their actions, and either got removed or got promoted to jobs they were most likely to understand quickly. In principle I don't necessarily object to overriding this norm, although I have doubts about both Petraeus and General Ray Odierno who will replace him as the commander in Iraq. (Seems Ray Odierno has a bit of reputation.)

Second, there is the politics of the thing. Promoting Petraeus to the theater command is like leaving a minefield for the next President, especially if s/he's one who would like to withdraw from Iraq, or even downsize our occupation there. Especially if he's angling for a GOP Presidential nomination in the future, he has every incentive to balk.

Third, and by far the most important reason to hold up the confirmation, there are some unanswered questions about Petraeus's veracity. See for example, this debate a year ago over whether Petraeus lied to a Congressional committee about US policy on arming Sunni tribes, and was at the most charitable very highly misleading to Congress about the level of violence in Iraq. Not to mention the suggestion he may recently have been less than forthcoming about discussions with Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki regarding military action in Basra.

Why should Congress confirm Petraeus to such high office at a critical time in our two ongoing military actions when he has a proven record of failing to testify fully and honestly?

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But I Don’t Have Any Dumb Friends

Scholars and Rogues, How to win the Iraq war debate against your dumb friends.

Recently I was arguing with one of my dumber friends about the Iraq war. He loves Bush and thinks bigger bombs is the answer in Iraq. I wasn’t gaining any ground in the argument until I used a simple analogy. I said, “Your solution is like shattering an expensive vase and then saying, ‘We need to keep smashing it until it’s fixed.’”

I stumped him. He was silent. So here’s a brief list of other analogies you can use on your dumb friends. And the truth is, I’ve seen similar ones work on some of the smartest political pundits.

Actually, I'm not sure if I know anyone who supports the war any more, although I know people with varying views about how one extricates from it. If they do support it, they're awful quiet about it. Statistically, you'd expect there would be a number in the student body, but then I don't spend that much time talking politics with students. Maybe I should?

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I wasn't going to post anything on this sad milestone of 4,000 US military fatalities in Iraq. The number is at once numbing, infuriating, obscene, and vastly under-stated, as it leaves out the non-military US fatalities, many many US military casualties whose injuries will plague them and their families for the next sixty or more years, the physically raped US civilian workers with no recourse, the metaphorically raped US taxpayers, the many tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, who knows how many Iraqi civilians injured, the millions of Iraqis displaced or forced into exile, and on and on.

And then I saw this: Crooks and Liars » Cheney on 4000 American Dead: “They Volunteered”

And so I posted something after all.

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Fallon Firing Fallout: Petraeus Wins

It looks to me as if the big winner in the Fallon firing (and even Steve Clemons says it is a firing) is Adm. Fallon's nominal subordinate Gen. David Petraeus. It didn't look good for Petraeus to have his boss on a different page; it revealed Petraeus's spin for what it was.

And it's important for Petraeus to look good: not primarily because he's at least a long-shot contender for the vice-presidential slot on the McCain ticket, but because Petraeus is the key to the administration's domestic strategy for the fall.

Bush desperately wants a Republican to succeed him, not just to avoid the visible repudiation but also to keep the scandals under the rug. The linchpin of the political strategy is to tar the Democrats as not just weak on defense but part of the Dolchstoßlegende (stab in the back) tendency. And the man who's going to do much of the heavy lifting for Bush is Petraeus, who's currently hoping to do another round of testimony on the Hill on or about 9/11/08 — just as the electoral season kicks into high gear.

(Why the Democrats would allow this testimony on such a charged date is beyond me, but there's no understanding the political death wishes and spinelessness of our Senators. They allowed it last year.)

[Update (3/12): I'm told this year's testimony is actually scheduled for April 8 and 9 — the dates that US forces took Baghdad and the Saddam statue came down. Another triumph of Democratic planing.]

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Vladeck on Omar and Munaf

At PrawfBlawg (like the blog, hate the name), Steve Vladeck has a very insightful post on two cases pending before the Supreme Court: Did Omar and Munaf Just Become the Same Case?

Steve being a friend, I know he'll forgive me for my quoting it in full:

Over at Opinio Juris, Kevin Heller has news of an immensely important development — the Iraqi Court of Cassation's reversal of Mohammed Munaf's conviction by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (the “CCC-I”). Munaf's habeas petition is one of two brought by U.S. citizens detained in Iraq set to be argued before the Supreme Court later this month (and in which I co-authored an amicus brief in support of the federal courts' jurisdiction).

Significantly, the distinction between Munaf and the other detainee — Omar — relied upon by the D.C. Circuit was Munaf's conviction by the CCC-I… the lower courts concluded that, where the U.S. citizen-detainee had not been tried and convicted (Omar), there was jurisdiction; where he had, there wasn't (Munaf).

If Munaf's conviction has now been reversed, that has the potential to change the whole complexion of the two cases; now, both present a challenge to “pure” executive detention, without the wrinkle added by Munaf's conviction (subsequent to the filing of his habeas petition). Indeed, Munaf's almost becomes the stronger case, since his, unlike Omar's, is not in the posture of a grant of a preliminary injunction…

How will the government respond? Will the Supreme Court now just decide Omar, and vacate and remand Munaf for further proceedings not inconsistent therewith?

One thing is for sure: If this all pans out, the reversal of Munaf's conviction serves to reinforce the deep flaws in his trial in the first place, and the reason why federal judicial review of his detention via habeas was—and continues to be—so critical in his case.

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