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Known Unknowns And Known Knowns, A Special Encore Presentation

Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007 11:44 PM


Our new strategy in Iraq is a plan that's beginning to take shape, according to President Bush.

Ahem.

Beginning to? You mean we're going into the field without a plan again? Or that we haven't had an effective plan while our troops have been dying in record numbers?

That's what I call decidimating … a cross between deciding and decimating our troops.

And that's just the opening moments of President Bush's latest press conference.

Mr. Bush goes on to describe how General Petraeus is coordinating with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to get Iraq's forces onto the playing field.

"There's still some work to be done there to get these – to get the command and control center up and running in Baghdad," Bush explained.

You'd think that after three years of, "As Iraq forces stand up, we will stand down," and several weeks of consideration by the Decidimater, that we'd have already established lines of communication, and embedded officers.

Instead, what we've had is a police force where significant numbers have been shown to be corrupt, and a police academy where shit drips from the ceiling.

"Operation Secure Baghdad is going to take time, and there will be violence. As we saw on our TV screens, the terrorists will send car bombs into crowded markets," Bush pointed out.

Three years after booting Saddam out the door, and we haven't been able to secure the capital city? (Oh, that's right. They underestimated the strength of the insurgency.) And Mr. Bush solemnly advises us that there will be violence. No, really?

But the slider is the bit about terrorists sending car bombs into crowded markets. This isn't because we're surging or pushing or escalating. This is what the insurgents have been doing for three years running, and will continue to do.

"Imagine what it would look like if we don't help them secure the city, the capital city of Baghdad," Bush warns.

It would look like you screwed up. That you failed to consider the effect on regional stability. That you went in and made promises that you simply could not keep. But, as usual, it's not your fault, is it? It's the people who disagree with you.

A classic sign of delusional thinking. It's not your premise that's flawed, it's an external condition. There's absolutely nothing wrong with our plan to dig a tunnel to China, it's those pesky geologists blathering about a molten core or something. It's that the Chinese aren't digging from their end, so clearly they don't want us to succeed.

And about that ever-changing mission. We're there to help secure the capital, to give the Iraqi people, "… a better sense that this government of theirs will provide security." Yet we continue to hear how we're there to fight terrorists, or stop Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, or prevent the spread of an extremist ideology.

In my opinion, using the phrase, "government of theirs" also makes it sound like it's the Iraqis' fault for not stepping up to the plate, and not ours for unseating a dictator and insisting on elections. It's not 'the Iraqi government,' or 'their government,' it's a snide, "government of theirs."

Bush equates the confirmation of General Petraeus as approval of the plan Petraeus is carrying out. Those are not the same thing; otherwise electing Bill Clinton would mean we had to approve of his affair with Monica Lewinsky. But what do you honestly expect from Bush, who had to point out that it was unpatriotic to criticize the president. If I wanted that kind of government, I'd live in Cuba.

Mr. Bush repeats his mantra, that he ordered a comprehensive review of our strategy, that he listened to a lot of voices, that he weighed every option. His conclusion, of course, was that accepting a bungled mission in Iraq would mean disastrous consequences for America. That's his conclusion. That's what the members of his staff think. That's a conclusion "a lot in the military came to."

Except, of course, the folks who are saying our strategy, which remains unchanged (funny how the comprehensive review didn't find anything wrong), won't work. Funny that there are troops who say a surge won't make a difference. It's only a former National Guardsman who skipped out on the latter half of his obligation who thinks toughing it out is sound foreign policy.

Bush tells us, "I believe that success in Baghdad will have success in helping us secure the homeland."

Never mind that that's a mangled sentence. We all know Mr. Bush doesn't elocutionate terribly well. But I'd like to think, Mr. President, that we're working on securing the homeland regardless of what's happening in Baghdad. You know, securing our ports, rail and air routes; securing critical infrastructure and assuring we have a response capability adequate to terrorist incidents or natural disasters.

Because Baghdad had nothing to do with Hurricane Katrina.

And, despite concerns about security in the midst of the Dubai Ports World deal, nothing has been done since. Not a drop of legislation. Not a whisper in the media of a comprehensive review or policy discussion or debate in Congress.

"What's different about this conflict than some others is that, if we fail there, the enemy will follow us here. I firmly believe that," Bush asserts.

Hmm. Let's see. If we didn't fight the Nazis, they'd have come here. If we didn't fight the Japanese, they'd have come here. If we didn't oppose the communists in Vietnam, they'd have come here. If we didn't oppose the Evil Empire of the USSR, they'd have come here.

A fear-based perspective that neglects our strongest asset. To defeat America, you have to take it. All of it. From Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, Bozeman to Corpus Christi. And you have to cross either the Pacific or Atlantic to get there.

But somehow, a handful of terrorist nutjobs will cross the borders and destroy our way of life. Certainly, we should be thinking about security to mitigate terrorist activity, but let's not kid ourselves that there will be storming legions of jihadists razing every major city in America.

Every cut and jab at America's strengths and freedoms since 9/11 have been at the hands of our political leaders. Terrorism is a bogeyman, whipped out to scare little kids into sleeping with the lights on and their phones tapped. There has been precious little done in the way of security; we can't even agree on the best way to secure our borders five years after 9/11.

Despite President Bush being against benchmarks and timetables, he now thinks they're a good idea.

"Benchmarks mean that the Iraqi government said they're going to do this; for example, have an oil law as a benchmark," Bush explains.

Um, no, that's not a benchmark. A benchmark is an external criteria used to measure progress in comparison. For example, if we're measuring physical fitness, the benchmark may be running a mile inside of five minutes. A self-imposed benchmark, such as an overweight teenager deciding he can run that mile in sixty minutes, is meaningless.

Ask any personal trainer; it's not about what you feel you can comfortably do, it's about how much further you can push yourself and exceed your own expectations.

Speaking of benchmarks, Bush describes the strategy as being 'clear, hold, and build' – the same strategy that carried us into 2006, and which was foiled by 'chaos' and other problems we didn't expect.

So how do we measure our own progress in this respect? As I've asked in previous entries, why do we expect the civilian forces to be able to maintain order when it's taking military force to impose it, and it isn't proving to be durable? And why do we expect a simple increase in troop strength to be sufficient to the task? (It seems to me that an IED would be more effective against a larger patrol or convoy; unless our 'plan' and 'surge' address the mobility of the insurgents, we've still got the short end of the stick. We need to find a way to change the equation.)

In his Q&A with reporters, Bush channels Donald Rumsfeld for a moment.

"What we do know is that the Quds Force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq. We know that. And we also know that the Quds Force is a part of the Iranian government. That's a known," he says. "What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds Force to do what they did."

"But here's my point: Either they knew or didn't know. And what matters is that they're there."

So, even if they didn't know, they're responsible? Would you care to match your own Administrations' actions on those same standards? After all, you either knew Jack Abramoff or didn't know him, but what matters is that he signed in on the visitor's log on an almost daily basis. We even have pictures!

"What's worse: that the government knew or that the government didn't know?

Are we talking about Iran, or about the if-we-had-known hand-wringing about 9/11 and so many other projections and estimates and rude surprises brought to us by BushCo? And isn't it convenient that action against Iran is being wrapped up in a neat, tidy package for the public to digest. Sprinkling sugar on a bowl of shit doesn't make it custard, George.

But Bush insists that We Know They're There. We Will Deal With Them. In fact, he's graciously let the field commanders know that we'll protect American soldiers and the innocent people in Iraq.

"And I believe an Iran with nuclear weapon would be very dangerous for world peace, and have worked with other nations of like mind," Bush declared.

Mmm-hmm. Seems to me you said the same thing about Iraq, you know, the bit about the world's most dangerous weapons being in the hands of … oh, wait, he didn't have any. Wasn't making any. Hadn't bought any. And I don't think we can say that the cesspool we've turned Iraq into is a major contribution to world peace.

"And our policies are all aimed at convincing the Iranian people there's a better way forward. And I hope their government hears that message."

So why do I remain unconvinced that this does not equate – in the vast wasteland that is your cranium, Mr. Bush – that this means diplomacy? Because the only 'way forward' you've offered Iran – both its people and its government – is submitting to American demands. Lots of stick, and no carrot.

As a reporter follows up and asks about the 'quality of intelligence' about Iran being the same as that which took us – incorrectly – into Iraq, Bush repeats that the Quds Force, part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs. (Funny how an Islamic country and an elite division of its Republican Guard keeps labeling their stuff only in English.)

Bush openly admits he does not know whether Quds Force is acting under direct orders from the top echelons of the Iranian government. Why don't you know? What steps are we taking to find out? Do we really want to predicate another major military action on a 'maybe'?

"But my point is: What's worse – them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and it's happening?" Bush asks.

And which is worse, Mr. Bush: ordering prisoners at Abu Ghraib to be tortured and it happening, or not ordering it and it happening?

As reporters continue to press on the Iran issue, Bush admits that we don't know exactly who ordered the Quds Force to provide the weapons (an assertion that I'm still not prepared to accept without more explicit proof – the Bush Administration already has one mismanaged war on the books, they shouldn't be given a second opportunity) … but it's a vital part of the Iranian government.

"We're going to do something about it, pure and simple," asserted the Cowboy-in-Chief.

It's not a pretext for war, he says. It's called, 'protecting our troops.'

Then, a softball question to allow another hit from the Bush Top 40.

"You know, victory in Iraq is not going to be like victory in World War II. And it's one of the challenges I have: to explain to the American people what Iraq will look like in a situation that will enable us to say we have accomplished our mission," Bush answers.

Victory in World War II resulted in a divided state that lasted for over forty years. Accomplish our mission? Didn't we already hang that banner and cheer our results? Oh, wait, right … that was just the major combat operations. And I suppose a situation mandating the deployment of an additional 21,000 troops is a minor combat operation?

Furthermore, we don't want 'look like' and spin. That's precisely why we're on this merry-go-round from Hell. Your people thought post-invasion Iraq would be this paradise where our troops were greeted with flowers and candy. Even the toppling of Saddam's statue was staged.

"It's like, you know, the fundamental question is, 'Can we help this government have the security force level necessary to make sure that the ethnic cleansing that was taking place in certain neighborhoods is stopped?'" Bush offers.

Except there are substantial allegations that it was the government's security force that was carrying out said ethnic cleansing. Who are we helping to do what, again? (And isn't that another mission we're adding to the list?)

But *** al-Qaeda is in Iraq ***, as well. Just in case y'all forgot.

"And then there's disaffected Sunnis, people who believe that, you know, they should still be in power in spite of the fact that the Shia are the majority of the country. And they're willing to use violence to try to create enough chaos so they get back in power," Bush continues.

So, why, exactly, is the Shiite nation of Iran supplying the Shiite nation of Iraq with IEDs? And who, exactly, are the victims of the aforementioned ethnic cleansing? Would that be the Sunni?

"I'm a little more tolerant of a person who has been only in government for seven months and hadn't had a lot – and, by the way, a government that hadn't had a lot of experience with democracy," Bush notes.

Which must be why your bestest buddy Stephen Hadley wrote that memo criticizing Maliki's ability and desire to get things done to your satisfaction nearly two months ago. And 'hadn't had a lot of experience'? Try NONE. It was a dictatorship. You know, as in, "Things would be easier in …?"

And he finishes with the classic, "I'm not saying my opponent is unpatriotic …" routine. Suddenly, Bush says you can support the military but not the tactics or strategy … when, in the past, it was a dumbfounded, "I don't see how you can say you support the troops but not the war."

Incidentally, Mr. Bush used the phrase, "in other words," twelve times. It's an established fact that liars will continue to offer information if met with skepticism, because they want you to be convinced. So I'd be wary of a president who talks about Iraq, in other words, about Iraq, in other words, about Iraq.


The Minister will be on vacation through February 21.


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