He Who Fights and Runs Away …

Pauline Jelinek writes today (June 23, 2007) for the Associated Press:

The U.S. may be able to reduce combat forces in Iraq by next spring if Iraq’s own security forces continue to grow and improve, a senior American commander said Friday. He denied reports the U.S. is arming Sunni insurgent groups to help in the fight against al-Qaida.

Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top day-to-day commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, did not predict any reductions in U.S. forces but said such redeployments may be feasible by spring. There are currently 156,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Hmm, why does that sound familiar? Oh, I remember

U.S. Signals Spring Start for Pullout

General Restates Position, Noting Contingencies, During Rumsfeld Visit to Baghdad

By Ann Scott Tyson and Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, July 28, 2005; Page A18

BAGHDAD, July 27 — The top U.S. military leader in Iraq said Wednesday there could be substantial withdrawals of some of the 135,000 U.S. troops in the country as early as next spring.

Gen. George W. Casey said that despite continued lethal attacks by insurgents, the security situation in Iraq had improved. He reiterated a position he had taken earlier this year on the possible decrease in the U.S. military presence during a one-day visit by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for meetings with Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari.

Back to the present, June 2007:

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon from his headquarters outside Baghdad, Odierno gave an update on the U.S. offensives under way in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad and in areas south and west of the capital. He said U.S. and Iraqi troops have made important progress.

“I think if everything goes the way it’s going now, there’s a potential that by the spring we will be able to reduce forces, and Iraq security forces could take over,” Odierno said. “It could happen sooner than that. I don’t know.”

From July 2005:

“If the political process continues to go positively, and if the development of the security forces continues to go as it is going, I do believe we’ll still be able to take some fairly substantial reductions after these elections in the spring and summer,” Casey said before meeting with Jafari.

While U.S. officials have said recently that troop cutbacks are possible, Rumsfeld’s visit gave special focus to the prospects for withdrawals. Rumsfeld and other officials have rejected making a deadline public, but a secret British defense memo leaked this month in London said U.S. officials favored “a relatively bold reduction in force numbers.”

One week the Bushies are talking about “the long war” and how the effort in Iraq will take many years. The next week they talk “post-surge” strategy and reduction of troop forces. In fact, it would be an interesting exercise to go through news stories from the beginning of the war to see how many times the Bushies or the “commanders on the ground” told news media that troops reductions were just around the corner. I dimly remember some talk about troop reduction coming out of the White House during the 2004 election campaign, also.

However, the propaganda cycles are spinning so fast now they are bumping into each other. Thomas Ricks writes in today’s Washington Post:

The major U.S. offensive launched last weekend against insurgents in and around Baghdad has significantly expanded the military’s battleground in Iraq — “a surge of operations,” and no longer just of troops, as the second-ranking U.S. commander there said yesterday — but it has renewed concerns about whether even the bigger U.S. troop presence there is large enough.

As the U.S. offensive, code-named Phantom Thunder, has been greeted with a week of intensified fighting in areas outside the capital — areas that the U.S. military has largely left untouched for as long as three years — the push raised fears from security experts and officers in the field that the new attacks might simply propel the enemy from one area to another where there are not as many U.S. troops.

Since President Bush ordered the troop increase in January, the military had focused on creating a more secure environment in Baghdad. “We are beyond a surge of forces,” Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said yesterday in a briefing from his headquarters in the Iraqi capital. He did not directly address the size of the force, saying only that the addition of 30,000 U.S. troops over five months “allows us to operate in areas where we have not been for a long time.”

Retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who in 2003 was among the first to call public attention to the relatively small size of the U.S. invasion force, said that the new operation shows how outnumbered U.S. troops remain. “Why would we think that a temporary presence of 30,000 additional combat troops in a giant city would change the dynamics of a bitter civil war?” he said in an interview yesterday. “It’s a fool’s errand.”

Compare/contrast to John Burns’s report in today’s New York Times:

The operational commander of troops battling to drive fighters with Al Qaeda from Baquba said Friday that 80 percent of the top Qaeda leaders in the city fled before the American-led offensive began earlier this week. He compared their flight with the escape of Qaeda leaders from Falluja ahead of an American offensive that recaptured that city in 2004.

In an otherwise upbeat assessment, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second-ranking American commander in Iraq, told reporters that leaders of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia had been alerted to the Baquba offensive by widespread public discussion of the American plan to clear the city before the attack began. He portrayed the Qaeda leaders’ escape as cowardice, saying that “when the fight comes, they leave,” abandoning “midlevel” Qaeda leaders and fighters to face the might of American troops — just, he said, as they did in Falluja.

Some American officers in Baquba have placed blame for the Qaeda leaders’ flight on public remarks about the offensive in the days before it began by top American commanders, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, the overall commander in Iraq. But General Odierno cast the issue in broader terms, saying Qaeda leaders were bound to know an attack was coming in light of President Bush’s decision to pour nearly 30,000 additional troops into the fight in a bid to secure Baghdad and areas around the capital that have been insurgent strongholds. That included Baquba, which lies 40 miles north.

“Frankly, I think they knew an operation was coming in Baquba,” General Odierno said in a teleconference briefing with Pentagon reporters from the American military headquarters in Baghdad. “They watched the news. They understood we had a surge. They understood Baquba was designated as a problem area. So they knew we were going to come sooner or later.”

Which begs the question: Why bother?

OK, we know why. Our troops are playing whack-a-mole to entertain the armchair warriors here at home and allow them to keep the faith. Meanwhile, the bulk of al Qaeda is comfortably entrenched in Pakistan and no doubt watchng our troops fight and die with much amusement also.

Speaking of al Qaeda, Josh Marshall notes:

I’ve long been amazed at how freely reporters accept it when this or that Arab or Muslim with a gun is labelled as “al Qaida.” And the issue is complicated by the fact that a new group — a post-invasion group with a very uncertain connection to the actual al Qaeda — has taken the name of al Qaeda in Iraq.

But is the standard bamboozle getting ramped up a notch? As Andrew Sullivan noted yesterday, even David Patraeus acts like the whole issue in Iraq now is just al Qaeda and Iranian arming of, I guess, al Qaeda. Otherwise things would be great.

This is the sort of thing that requires a close watching of the news and how things are being reported. Is ‘insurgent’ now being replaced across the board by al Qaeda. Keep an eye out and let us know what you see. We’ll do the same.

See also: The Iraq Insurgency for Beginners.

See also Glenn Greenwald, “Everyone we fight in Iraq is now ‘al-Qaida’.”

11 thoughts on “He Who Fights and Runs Away …

  1. “Oui kant go kuz oui gotta stay intel there reddy four Democrat firm of gevvernmint and r reddy to police thereselves so oui gotta stay intel there reddy to do all o that so that oui gotta fight m over their so we dont gotta fight m over here. Ain’t that right, Uncle Dick?”

    We have a “Perfect Storm” of stupidity in this country. A stupid press uncritically lapping up what a stupid President and his followers say. And a congress too stupid to realize that the country wants all of this stupidity to stop. NOW!

  2. The perfect storm is almost over, trouble is, that most people are not comfortable admitting they were wrong about them “evil a-rabs”, I mean WTF? First they are all evil beings we must Nuke, then it’s “we’re bringing them democracy”, now it’s Al Qaida or “Links” or “ties” or “wanna be’s”. No my fellow serfs, it’s called propaganda.

    So now we have tell all stories about the CIA, the rats are leaving the ship bacause the terrible truth about Abu Gharib and Git’Mo is about to come to light. Hamid Karzai is flaming over the “excessive” civilian deaths in Afghanistan. and the truth about the “secret” air war in Iraq will soon be out.Iraq is like Palistine, so long as they keep the terrible truth under wraps, no one will pitch a fit.

    Yes my friends, we just may see some little tin Gods get their just desserts. I wish that some reporter would ask Bush,Julianni , or that Satan clone Chertoff why the anthrax attack mystery has yet to be solved the next time they commence spouting their 9/11 bullshit.

  3. With apologies to ABBA

    Finally facing my Waterloo

    My my, at waterloo napoleon did surrender
    Oh yeah, and I have met my destiny in quite a similar way
    The history book on the shelf
    Is always repeating itself

    Waterloo – I was defeated, you won the war
    Waterloo – promise to love you for ever more
    Waterloo – couldn’t escape if I wanted to
    Waterloo – knowing my fate is to be with you
    Waterloo – finally facing my waterloo

    My my, I tried to hold you back but you were stronger
    Oh yeah, and now it seems my only chance is giving up the fight
    And how could I ever refuse
    I feel like I win when I lose

    Waterloo – I was defeated, you won the war
    Waterloo – promise to love you for ever more
    Waterloo – couldn’t escape if I wanted to
    Waterloo – knowing my fate is to be with you

    And how could I ever refuse
    I feel like I win when I lose

    Waterloo – I was defeated, you won the war
    Waterloo – promise to love you for ever more
    Waterloo – couldn’t escape if I wanted to
    Waterloo – knowing my fate is to be with you
    Waterloo – finally facing my waterloo

    h/t to Andrew Sullivan of all people.

  4. So, the enemy forces made sure their leadership had withdrawn to a more secure location, based on intelligence that an overwhelming assault force was on its way, and they left combat forces behind to engage the assault and slow it down? I thought that was normally called “orderly retreat”.

    I mean, I realize this is counterinsurgency and a whole new kind of warfare and all, but since when did we expect the enemy to stand still while we clobbered them?

    Personally, I’m pretty happy that General Washington’s “cowardly” escape from Cornwallis in the fall of 1776 worked out. (Of course, I grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, where they still memorialize the ‘daring’ escape of General Israel Putnam, who, when surprised by British forces, escaped by plunging his horse down a set of steep stone steps the British were afraid to attempt. So maybe I don’t have the proper understanding of cowardice in a military context.)

  5. Whack a Mole… Good one.

    The establishment is stringing us along (and themselves too). Come September, we’ll either hear, “Progress is being made. We need a little more time and a little more resources to get the job done.”

    Or if things really tank, we’ll hear, “Our men in uniform are deeply engaged. Now is not the time to show weakness.”

    Any predictions on what the Dismalcrats will do? Hilary gives us a hint, “It’s George Bush’s Whack a Mole war.”

  6. “Another 50,000 troops and six more months and we’ll have ’em on the run”…

    It’ll be time to repeat about September…

    Where’s the next wave gonna come from?

  7. I apologize that I’ve left the exact same comment elsewhere, but as far too many of you swallow Greenwald’s falsehoods unquestioningly, I’ve got quite a few places where I need to reveal the truth.

    Marshall and Greenwald are 100% wrong on the facts. And since you probably won’t take my word for it, read the MNF-I press releases yourself.

    Greenwald has long had a history of stretching the truth.

    This time, he’s lying, and making you out for fools in the process.

  8. Oh, yes, CY. The MNF-I press releases enlightened me. The government wouldn’t possibly lie to cover its ass, would it? I am so convinced. I will never quote Greenwald and Marshall again.


  9. maha,
    I appreciate the sarcasm.
    Telling lies is something this administration would NEVER do!

    CY – I love how you source yourself in your post. And then source GWB’s government.

    How Republican of you…

  10. Gomer, I don’t think the MNF press releases prove what you think they prove. It is true that project “Arrowhead Ripper” does seem to be in full swing, which purports to focus on Al-Qaeda. (I’ll leave the non-asshole ways to point out the existence of this operation as an exercise for the reader, but “Don’t do what Confederate Yankee did” is a good shortcut.)

    However, there does seem to be an Al-Qaedaization of the language. The reports of 17 gunmen killed near Khalis on 22 June, the checkpoint attack on 24 June – if people show up and shoot at you, and you kill them, it’s pretty clear they’re agin you but less clear why they’re Al-Qaeda. There are still some “insurgents”, but many of the press releases mention that “Arrowhead Ripper” seems to be targeted against “Al-Qadea and its affiliates”. What does “afilliate” mean in this context? Anything useful?

    The jury isn’t in, of course, but if you’re looking to criticize people who jump to conclusions based on simplistic reasoning… well, there’s an ocular beam you might want to take care of.

    Marshall and Greenwald’s point was that the language seems to be shifting to appease idiots who think that Al-Qaeda are the only ones objecting to our presence in Iraq. You’ve got a few of those commenting on your site, you know.

  11. Pingback: The Mahablog » Jaw Jawing for War

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