Hersh v. Kaplan

Tomorrow (I assume) we’re going to find out who’s right about Bush’s plans for Iraq–Seymour Hersh or Fred Kaplan.

Yesterday Kaplan posted an article on Slate predicting that Bush’s speech at the Naval Academy tomorrow will set the agenda for withdrawal from Iraq.

Brace yourself for a mind-bog of sheer cynicism. The discombobulation begins Wednesday, when President George W. Bush is expected to proclaim, in a major speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, that the Iraqi security forces—which only a few months ago were said to have just one battalion capable of fighting on its own—have suddenly made uncanny progress in combat readiness. Expect soon after (if not during the speech itself) the thing that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have, just this month, denounced as near-treason—a timetable for withdrawal of American troops.

Kaplan presents a case — a very strong case — showing that the administration is already planning to begin a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. It does seem to me that politicians from both parties are moving toward a consensus on withdrawal even as they accuse each other of treason and/or misleading. All the signs and portents say it’s time to talk exit strategy.

However, what about Bush himself? Does he see what everyone else sees? And Seymour Hersh says no.

On Hardball this evening, Hersh said Bush is not going to withdraw. Bush is committed to what he’s doing, Hersh said. Is he even listening to advice from others? Hersh said it’s hard to say, but he thinks most of what Bush learns about what’s going on in Iraq comes to him through a big filter named Dick Cheney. Hersh said Bush thinks God is talking to him. He doesn’t care how many body bags come back. He’s not interested in contrary opinions. There is an underlying fear that Bush is a utopian without realistic information or ability to change with shifting circumtances.

Who do you think is right, Kaplan or Hersh?

Today Bush said he rejected plans for a quick withdrawal, and said that the pace of withdrawal will be determined by military commanders. Bloomberg reports:

Americans “don’t want me making decisions based upon politics,” Bush told reporters in El Paso, Texas, where he was inspecting border patrol facilities. “They want me to make decisions based on recommendations from our generals on the ground.” …

… “We will make decisions about troop levels based upon the capacity of the Iraqis to take the fight to the enemy,” the president said in Texas.

He gave no indication he will offer a timetable for a troop pullout and said his speech will outline the progress being made on training Iraqis to take over the defense of their country against insurgents who have been targeting the Iraqi government as well as the U.S. military.

“I know there are a lot of voices in Washington we’ve heard people say pull them out. That’s a huge mistake,” Bush said. “I want the troops to come home, but I don’t want them to come home without achieving victory and we have got a strategy for victory.”

But Hersh says the top generals in the Pentagon — the four-star guys — are afraid to speak the truth to Rumsfeld and Bush. He said this on Hardball and in his recent New Yorker article

Many of the military’s most senior generals are deeply frustrated, but they say nothing in public, because they don’t want to jeopardize their careers. The Administration has “so terrified the generals that they know they won’t go public,” a former defense official said. A retired senior C.I.A. officer with knowledge of Iraq told me that one of his colleagues recently participated in a congressional tour there. The legislators were repeatedly told, in meetings with enlisted men, junior officers, and generals that “things were fucked up.” But in a subsequent teleconference with Rumsfeld, he said, the generals kept those criticisms to themselves.

Most likely, Hersh says, the military will pull out boots on the ground and substitute air power, which has a whole lot of new risks, as he explains in The New Yorker. But the war will continue, with us in it.

I believe tomorrow’s speech is scheduled for mid-morning. I plan on live-blogging, so drop by if you don’t watch it yourself. I’ll look at the Chimp’s face so you don’t have to.

But what’s it gonna be, do you think? Will he make noises to lay the groundwork for troop withdrawal, or will he want to stay the course?

11 thoughts on “Hersh v. Kaplan

  1. Bush’s unyielding attitude might just be setting the stage so when they do withdraw troops of the 2006 election ploy, people will be convinced that the withdrawl is an indicator of victory… giving Bush a 2 for 2 victory on his road to defeat. Whatever happens, we can be assured that honesty won’t be forthcoming from the Whitehouse. Bush’s adventure in Iraq can only be supported by lies, and more lies..

  2. I tend to think Hersh is closer to correct about this considering there have been bases built there that are meant to last long term, and that those bases are there to protect their investment (Iraqs oil which bush and co. now owns).

    Bush will have his peons tell us whatever bullshit they think will shut us up,while they just do whatever the hell they want.MAYBE, MAYBE if the political pressure gets hot near election time they will throw us a bone and draw down the numbers until right after the elections..maybe there will be some huge “mission accomplished” moment but it will be as meaningless as the last one,, and I for one am sick of buying banners for this asshole to stand in front of while he lies..

    As for the thought of them replacing boots on the ground with air power,,I think this is the part that makes me terrified for the people stuck in that hellhole that we have created for them….Can you even bare the thought of us putting the INNOCENT people of iraq thru more bombing now? Can you imagine your own life now if you were waiting for an airplane to drop bombs on your neighborhood whenever?How is doing this to the innocent people of Iraq going to make us safer? Where is the humanity?
    We made this huge mess in Iraq we can’t solve and to keep it from getting messing for bush and to drop our body count so the reps can try to win the election in 06, lets just drop bombs on neighborhoods..Good friggin plan ..
    This is SICK ..what we are doing in Iraq is SICK .What we are doing to our troops is SICK .One bomb at a time we are performing one giant late term abortion on a whole country full of born PEOPLE….ok fine bush didn’t lie ,, he just had bad intell …we are killing our own and innocent iraqis for WRONG intell,,an unjustified war,, what the hell are we doing? Point to me one thing the iraqi people have ever done to harm us?Did they even have bad thoughts about us? I would say the American people had bad thoughts about Iraqis before the war , because no one seems to care about their lives now, but i would be willing to guess the iraqi people didn’t think of us very much at all in their day to day lives, they were just trying to get by.Is there no mercy for them?Does it fit into gw’s ego trip?

  3. Thanks, Maha, for the live blog tomorrow. I’ll be at stupid work, so I won’t be able to watch his facial tics, his fidgeting, and worst of all, his insufferable smirks (which he always does at the most inappropriate moments–watch! When he talks about death and destruction, he smiles!)

    You are the woman.

  4. I think he will talk about bringing the troops home, but will not offer any sort of time table. I think he will draw them down to about 100,000 before the 2006 elections to try to shore up GOP chances, but I also predict that it won’t work. To control the country we need more troops than are there now, (which we will also never get,) so I predict it will go worse than ever and will not look good for anyone. As the troops are only there as security for big oil there is never going to be any real intention to bring them home, after the elections they will be sent back for 3rd, 4th, and 5th tours…unending tours for as long as it takes to siphon off all the oil.

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  6. The Naval Academy speech will be more of the same “stay the course” dressed up a little.

    Swami has it right. A month prior to the 2006 elections there’ll be a token withdrawal heralded with hosannas from the usual 1001 administration shills. The Bushies will claim partial victory— just as the Johnson and Nixon Administrations on numerous occasions in ‘Nam.

    The neo-cons will leave it to the next administration to withdraw troops. When Iraq totally disintegrates the conservatives will blame Fifth Column liberals and weak-kneed Dems for not pursuing the original disasterous plan.

  7. It doesn’t matter what he does. Whatever he does, it’ll go wrong because it’s him doing it!

  8. This morning, I am simply struck by the absurdity of America listening so attentively for the latest utterings from this incompetent bubble-man. Reminds me of a bunch of adults hanging on every burp, coo-sound or fart from an infant. America most needs to firmly remove this spoiled booby, I mean, spoiled baby from the driver’s seat….meanwhile, taking a clue from the Bush team, let’s design a way to quietly leave him out of the loop of decision-making.

  9. I’m not sure Kaplan and Hersh are all that far apart. Kaplan predicts an announcement of a timetable; Hersh says Bush wants to “stay the course,” but he also says plans are being drawn up for a withdrawal of ground forces:

    There are several proposals currently under review by the White House and the Pentagon; the most ambitious calls for American combat forces to be reduced from a hundred and fifty-five thousand troops to fewer than eighty thousand by next fall, with all American forces officially designated “combat” to be pulled out of the area by the summer of 2008.

    I think what Hersh is saying is that Bush believes we’re on the road to victory, dammit, and thus a drawdown ought to be possible soon (even though it will require the replacement of ground fighting with air strikes).

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  11. Well, here it is, in the little “Victory” booklet:

    •• No war has ever been won on a timetable and neither will this one.

    • But lack of a timetable does not mean our posture in Iraq (both military and civilian) will remain static over time. As conditions change, our posture will change.

    •• We expect, but cannot guarantee, that our force posture will change over the next year….

    Translation: We’re thinking about a timetable, but we’re not actually following one.

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