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August 28, 2007

Petraeus: Lots of Smoke. No Fire Yet.
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

I have to agree with Kevin.

I am getting more and more suspicious of General Petraeus and these assertions that violence is actually down in Iraq.  There is no smoking gun and I hope that I am wrong about this, but there are just too many question marks out there.  Individually they don't raise suspicions, but combined they make me very skeptical. 

There is a lot of smoke.  But as of yet no fire.  Reporters and legislators alike need to take a very careful look at him and the numbers that are presented in the White House report. 

Consider:

  • The McClatchy article from a couple of weeks back where the military asserted that violence was down but “declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don’t support the claim.”

  • The AP reported this weekend that by their count sectarian violence has doubled this year. 

  • The fact that the Iraqi ministry of health has stopped sharing its numbers with the UN.  So there is no independent verification of the violence numbers.

  • The fact that Petraeus commented on the NIE and helped "soften" the language on the security situation

  • His Washington Post op-ed in 2004 which touted the success of Iraqi security forces, 6 weeks before the election.  Turns out it wasn’t going as well as he said it was.

  • The fact that the U.S. military in the past has gone out of its way to specifically undercount "sectarian killings" to make it look like there was progress

  • The fact that Petraeus's entire career and legacy is tied to the “surge” and its success

Just some food for thought.

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Comments

Don't forget the Iraq Study Group (ISG) which lambasted the Pentagon for "significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq." For example, official accounts tallied 93 attacks one day in July [2006], yet, according to the ISG, "a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence."

Also, Petraeus's report ought to be considered secondary to Crocker's. The purpose of the military escalation was to provide security for accomplishment of the 18 benchmarks. With the ongoing disintegration of the Iraqi "government" that seems unlikely in the next 5 or 10 Friedman units.

So everything's going to plan. The US treasury has been drained, the US is in hock up to its eyebrows in debt to Japan and China and the US will obviously stay the course, with a slight deviation to a total ME holocaust following attacks on Iran. --How about them Sox?

Months ago you had an ongoing debate with Petraeus's spokesman in which you argued that you cannot trust the guy running the show to be the person who judges whether it is working or not. You were right then and nothing has changed to make anyone think differently.

At the risk of being obvious, GAO also was commissioned to write a report for Congress on many of these subjects, and parts of it recently were been leaked to the press.

It's scheduled to be discussed during a September 1 hearing, I believe. Its major points are about benchmarking troop commitments to "political reconciliation" goals achieved by the government of the "nation" of "Iraq."

It's such a top-secret, hush-hush document -- complete with metrics! -- that it's been openly mentioned by the Washington Post, NY Times and the Kalamazoo Daily Bugler.

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If Petraeus presents a glowing report, and the "successes" in Iraq continue, he might be able to buy himself a little more time for his surge. He might be able to mollify war critics sufficiently to keep us in Iraq a bit longer. There will, however, be no peace in Iraq until there is political reconciliation, and it just seems very unlikely that the Sunnis will be comfortable as a minority in the Iraqi Parliament. They used to run the whole enchillada, lest we forget.In any event, I'm guessing that we start to see a drawdown of troops before the elections next year. Bush will say that the surge worked, that most of the country is peaceful, and that he is drawing down troops and he'll let the Iraqis handle the rest. So, it'll be Vietnam all over again, basically. If he does this, I'm guessing it will take the wind out of Hillary's sails. Her advantage is that she's perceived as being way tougher than her opponents for the nomination, and if the need for that toughness is abated, the Democrats will probably pick a safer candidate.

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