Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dogs and Ponies

It wouldn’t be so bad for George Bush to lie every time he opens his mouth if it wasn’t so obvious that he doesn’t care that you know he’s lying. Last week’s clumsily choreographed events in Washington are another episode in the continuing saga of the Bush Administartion’s remake of The Man Who Would Be King.

General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker spent Monday and Tuesday on Capitol Hill, testifying under oath their “reports” were not vetted or aided by the White House. This might have played better had Bush not announced his agreement with Petraeus’s recommendation to draw down our forces in Iraq before the general was even finished talking about it.

Salient fact: there’s no drawdown. The “surge” was supposed to be temporary. The troops coming are coming out on almost exactly the same timeline they would have originally. Extending them wasn’t really an option, as the Joint Chiefs of Staff are near mutiny now over the tattered state that passes for military readiness. Claiming credit for bringing them out without replacing them is a hollow truth; there are no troops to replace them with.

Much of Petraeus’s testimony alludes to improved conditions that allow him to send troops home, contradicting a recent audit by the Government Accountability Office. Ah, but, the GAO data is five to nine weeks older than what Petraeus brought forward. Things are completely different now, wink wink, nudge nudge.

On Thursday, Bush made a televised address to announce his new “return on success,” initiative, touting accomplishments that contradicted his own recent statements. Petraeus set him up nicely – if, of course, coincidentally, since no coordination was taking place – by stating in a media interview hours earlier that Iraq should reach a state of “sustainable security” by June 2009. Was this something he came up with on Wednesday? It must be, since he said nothing positive about the prospect of “sustainable security” while on Capitol Hill, unless he mentioned it to Larry Craig in the men’s room.

The parallels between Iraq and Vietnam grow greater by the day. Petraeus occupied a seat eerily similar to one William Westmoreland sat in forty years ago, being asked the same questions. “How long?” “Are we winning?” And the answers, while phrased with forty years of marketing savvy behind them, served the same purpose: to buy time. Keep the money coming. Keep the war more alive than the thirty-eight hundred who have come home in boxes.

We support a regime no more legitimate than the Diem government in South Vietnam. Bush has spoken of the bloodbath that resulted when we left Vietnam, and how he will avoid the same result here. Left unsaid was how much of that bloodbath was the result of our own actions: destabilizing the Cambodian government, allowing the Khmer Rouge to take over and slaughter millions of their own citizens, until the Vietnamese came in and took over themselves. Had we actually used Bush’s standard in Vietnam, we’d still be there, with over 100,000 names on The Wall.

The analogy to look at is Yugoslavia, where another strong dictator (Tito) kept bitter ethnic hatreds submerged through his own iron hand, and by providing a common enemy to the various factions. Yugoslavia fell apart into civil war, ethnic cleansing, and more new countries than anyone outside the State Department can keep track of. Things got sorted out there, but only after much violence that had been repressed found its way to the surface, and with the support and disinterested supervision of the United Nations and NATO.

Bush’s pronounced intention of buying time for the Iraqi government to get its act together is disingenuous to the point of perjury. He’s buying time to get his own ass out, to allow someone to make the inevitable departure so he can claim they “lost” Iraq. As for his alleged desire to avoid another Vietnam, it’s too late. Better to avoid another Yugoslavia, which can best be done by eliminating the factions’ current common enemy: us.

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