Apparatchiks With Shovels

Here’s a seriously disturbing story from TPM Café. Vali Nasr writes,

It now looks like the administration has adopted the surge strategy as its mantra. Simply put it means no new political road map for Iraq in place of the “national unity government” formula that has so far failed (has not delivered on the insurgency but has managed to alienated the Shias, and has actually caused more rather than less sectarian violence since the U.S. adopted it); going it alone (ignoring ISG’s recommendation to talk to the neighbors); and putting more boots on the ground. This last item deserves special attention. The language of the administration suggests that the surge will be used to fight radical groups and sectarian militias—Sunni ones and especially Shia militias and death squads associated with Muqtada al-Sadr. But listen closely; what they mean is that surge is in fact meant to finish off Sadr. And there lies the danger.

This is stunning. This means that the war will escalate, and our troops will be taking on multiple sides of a civil war at the same time. And by taking on Shia militias, Nasr says, we run the risk of inciting a Shia insurgency, which is about the only sort of violence Iraq hadn’t seen already.

The generals (who, we’ve been told until now, were making “decisions on the ground”) are opposed to the surge. But as if on cue, today several news outlets have reported that soldiers in Iraq support the surge. David Cloud of the New York Times writes,

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, talking to enlisted soldiers on his second day in Iraq, heard broad support today for a proposal to send more American forces to Iraq, an idea that has emerged as a leading option as the Bush administration considers a strategy shift.

“I really think we need more troops here,” said Specialist Jason T. Glenn, one of several soldiers at a breakfast meeting with Mr. Gates who backed the idea. “With more presence here,” he said, security might improve to a point that “we can get the Iraqi Army trained up.”

You can read essentially the same story from the Associated Press. Thomas E. Ricks and Howard Schneider report for the Washington Post,

Bush said this week he is waiting to hear from Gates after the new defense secretary returns from Iraq before making a final decision on the issue.

In a breakfast earlier in the day with more than a dozen enlisted soldiers, however, Gates got an earful about the need for more personnel.

“I really think we need more troops here, with more presence on the ground. More troops might hold [the insurgents] off long enough to where we can get the Iraq army trained up,” said Spec. Jason Glenn, a member of an intelligence unit in the first infantry division.

“I think we do need more troops over here,” agreed PFC Cassandra Wallace, a support soldier in the Tenth Mountain Division. “More troops would help us integrate the Iraqi army into patrols here.”

You don’t have to wait for the White House speechwriters to put this together for you, do you? You know that sometime soon President Bush is going to announce that soldiers are asking for more troops in Iraq, so we have to send them.

I guess now we’re bypassing the generals and are asking the soldiers to make decisions on the ground.

Secretary Gates is, in fact, doing a heck of a job hearing what Bush wants to hear. According to Ricks and Schneider, not only is Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declaring stoutly that Iraq will “take the lead role in solving the country’s security problems,” (translation: See? Iraqification is working!) but Gates is saying that both Iran and Syria are playing “a very negative role” in Iraq. Iran especially (translation: Just forget about discussions with Syria and Iran).

You know that Bush has already decided what the Great Leap Forward to Victory will be, and that it will look remarkably like the old plan on meth. What we’re seeing now is just the pre-leap ceremony.

It’s a Joke

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

There was an old man in France who used to get up at the crack of dawn every day and sprinkle white powder all around his house. When his neighbor asked him what he was sprinkling, he replied that it was elephant repellant. The neighbor exclaimed “There are no elephants in France!” to which he answered “I guess it must be working then!”

It’s an old joke. I’ve heard it told better. But now there’s an updated version, as reported by Melinda Henneberger:

I like dreamers, so I was really trying to follow what Bill Kristol had to say on the Daily Show last night. The gist of it was that though the war in Iraq had been mismanaged, yes, it had also kept us from being attacked here at home since 9/11, so Bush should get some credit for that.

I didn’t see this segment, so I can’t judge how well Kristol told the joke. I’m guessing it went something like this:

    STEWART: The Iraq War isn’t going so well. What are we trying to accomplish?

    KRISTOL: It’s to keep away al Qaeda.

    STEWART: How is it keeping away al Qaeda?

    KRISTOL: Have there been any al Qaeda attacks in America lately?

    STEWART: No.

    KRISTOL: See? It must be working.

I like the elephant version better.

Update: C&L has the video.