Colonel Boylan, General Petraeus’s spokesman, has once again responded to me regarding my post that for General Petraeus to be the primary evaluator of the “surge” represents poor management practices because of conflict of interest.
First, I will concede to the Colonel that Andrea Mitchell did in fact correct her report regarding the General’s meeting with Congress. It was an oversight on my part.
However, that does not change the basic facts here. The Colonel states that:
Part of my job is to correct inaccurate information such as stated on this site, in the media, and in the public domain.
Fine. But what exactly was inaccurate about my first post to which the Colonel responded? The main point was not to launch a personal attack or spread incorrect information. The main point was that if this September report is so important. If everything hinges on it. And if that is the major decision point for Congress and the President, then we should have an outside evaluation in addition to the report by General Petraeus? It’s just plain old common sense. You don’t just have the person who is running the operation be the sole reporter. When a corporation makes a major decision, such as an acquisition or merger, it hires lawyers, investment bankers and accountants, who act as a second set of eyes and deliver an outside evaluation. It’s just good practice.
In terms of the Colonel’s argument that:
You should be aware that General Petraeus will not be the sole source of the assessment. This will be a joint assessment by the US Embassy in Baghdad and the Multi-National Force-Iraq. The two individuals who will report on the assessment are of course Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General Petraeus.
Well, Ambassador Crocker is still part of the group implementing the current policy. It doesn’t answer the fact that we need an outside assessment.
As for the Larry Korb op-ed. The Colonel argues that it was only Korb’s opinion and not a fact. Well, it seems pretty compelling to me. Here is what Korb had to say and for full disclosure here is the op-ed from General Petraeus. I’ll let readers judge for themselves.
On Sept. 26, 2004, about six weeks before the presidential election, in which the deteriorating situation in Iraq was an increasingly important issue, then Lt. Gen. Petraeus published a misleading commentary in the Washington Post. In that article, Petraeus, who was then in charge of training Iraqi security forces, spoke glowingly about the tangible progress that those forces were making under his tutelage. According to Petraeus, more than 200,000 Iraqis were performing a wide variety of security missions; training was on track and increasing in capacity; 45 Iraqi National Guard battalions and six regular Army battalions were conducting operations on a daily basis; and by the end of November 2004, six more regular Army battalions and six additional Intervention Force battalions would become operational.
Because Bush administration policy at that time was that "we will stand down when they stand up," this article, in effect, conveyed to the American electorate that the Iraqis were, indeed, standing up, and, therefore, there was light at the end of the tunnel for the Iraqi quagmire.
If Petraeus wrote on his own initiative, he was injecting himself improperly into a political campaign. If he was encouraged or even allowed to do this by his civilian superiors, he was allowing himself to be used for partisan political purposes.
The Colonel also argues that:
General Petraeus over the times he has been in Iraq has written op-eds on various topics in order to provide context to what is happening on the ground.
But actually I did a little research and was not able to find another op-ed in a major newspaper that General Petraeus has written in the past five years. My search included more than 200 newspapers including almost all of the highest circulation papers in the country as well as most of the large circulation magazines. If I missed something, I would ask the Colonel to correct me. But as far as I can tell, the piece that came out six weeks before the 2004 election and conveniently reiterated the President’s talking points is the only one out there in a major U.S. newspaper. This only reiterates Korb’s point.
Then there is this disturbing report in the LA Times, which again I ask the Colonel to respond to.
U.S. military leaders in Iraq are increasingly convinced that most of the broad political goals President Bush laid out early this year in his announcement of a troop buildup will not be met this summer and are seeking ways to redefine success.
Finally, there is the question of Colonel Boylan’s job. I recognize the fact that he works in public affairs. But I thought it was poor form that he did not identify himself as Petraeus’s spokesman in the initial post. For the sake of full disclosure this should have been made completely clear. It gives a greater context to his comments.