Pooh-poohing Petraeus

The White House report on Iraq “progress” being fronted by General Petraeus likely will be the top news story over the next couple of days. The general’s testimony to Congress will begin this afternoon.

This morning the Right Blogosphere had the vapors over a Moveon.org ad that, the righties said, called General Petraeus a traitor. They harrumphed that Moveon had crossed a line and that the ad is “despicable.”

Righties, of course, never cross lines. When they called former President Jimmy Carter a traitor, or when they called Senator John Kerry a traitor, or when they called Rep. Jack Murtha a traitor, that was entirely different. I don’t know why, but it was.

For the record, here’s the text of the Moveon ad:


General Petraeus is a military man constantly at war with the facts. In 2004, just before the election, he said there was “tangible progress” in Iraq and that “Iraqi leaders are stepping forward.” And last week Petraeus, the architect of the escalation of troops in Iraq, said, “We say we have achieved progress, and we are obviously going to do everything we can to build on that progress.”

Every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq shows that the surge strategy has failed. Yet the General claims a reduction in violence. That’s because, according to the New York Times, the Pentagon has adopted a bizarre formula for keeping tabs on violence. For example, deaths by car bombs don’t count. The Washington Post reported that assassinations only count if you’re shot in the back of the head — not the front. According to the Associated Press, there have been more civilian deaths and more American soldier deaths in the past three months than in any other summer we’ve been there. We’ll hear of neighborhoods where violence has decreased. But we won’t hear that those neighborhoods have been ethnically cleansed.

Most importantly, General Petraeus will not admit what everyone knows: Iraq is mired in an unwinnable religious civil war. We may hear of a plan to withdraw a few thousand American troops. But we won’t hear what Americans are desperate to hear: a timetable for withdrawing all our troops. General Petraeus has actually said American troops will need to stay in Iraq for as long as ten years.

Today, before Congress and before the American people, General Petraeus is likely to become General Betray Us.

Cooking the Books for the White House

There are no end of outraged rightie blog posts about this ad, but not one that I’ve seen refutes the facts presented in the ad. They get hung up on the headline — GENERAL PETRAEUS OR GENERAL BETRAY US? — and that’s as far as their “analysis” gets. (See previous post on scientific evidence that righties are stupid.) Instead of, you know, thinking, they commence their usual hysterical wailing and play the victim.

Pete Hegseth of National Review Online
is calling for Democrats to “denounce” Moveon. Yes, just as the GOP denounced the Swift Boat Liars. Oh, wait …

Also for the record, had Moveon asked me I would have advised them not to focus so much on Gen. Petraeus. He’s just a pawn, really, although as near as I can tell he’s playing the pawn role of his own free will. I think Robert Stein makes a valid point

In his farewell address, Eisenhower famously warned against “the disastrous rise of misplaced power” by the military-industrial complex, “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of…defense with our peaceful methods and goals.”

Now Bush is breaking down the barriers between military and civilian by attempting to use Petraeus and “the generals” who agree with him, after replacing those who don’t, as a battering ram against Congress to keep them from challenging and changing his disastrous policies.

The invective of the ad against Petraeus is misplaced. He is doing his job in the way that the Commander-in-Chief has defined it. It’s that definition that is now not only causing ruin in Iraq but subverting the Constitution.

Of course, unless the Bushies are holding Gen. Petraeus’s mother hostage in the White House basement, he’s complicit in allowing his uniform to be used as political butt cover.

See also: “Bush in Space.”

28 thoughts on “Pooh-poohing Petraeus

  1. Robert Stein does make a valid point. The point I take from his writing is that it is entirely possible for one person at the top to modify the schedule of rewards and punishments in governmental organizations so that they hear exactly what they want to hear, regardless of what is true.

    That has been thoroughly demonstrated in the toughest nut to crack of all — our military, where one would hope to see a host of strong sentiments, such as patriotism, democracy, and the Constitution to exist, right along-side “chain-of-command.”

    Cult of personality and our Democratic ideals have been pitted one against the other. It is still not certain which will prevail. Along these lines Patraeus seems conflicted. He will betray one or the other or be uncharacteristically milquetoast.

    I really wonder what will happen to the military in the next administration. Will any of those who left early for ethical reasons return or will be only be left with those who somehow found it within themselves to support a lie continue? Somehow the latter seem tainted.

  2. Petraeus wrote the book on counter insurgencies and he’s got a PhD*. There’s nothing more to analyze. So just relax in the knowledge that we’re kicking ass in Iraq and victory is just around the corner. Like David of the bible..God has given us the victory through David of Centcom.

    * for those of you who can’t understand how blessed we are to have such a capable General working for our salvation in Iraq.

  3. Mahablog,

    Even IF the White House is holding Gen. Petraeus’ mother hostage, his action is still voluntary–at least according to Aristotle’s defintion of ‘voluntary’ action.

    “But with regard to the things that are done from fear of greater evils or for some noble object (e.g. if a tyrant were to order one to do something base, having one’s parents and children in his power, and if one did the action they were to be saved, but otherwise would be put to death), it may be debated whether such actions are involuntary or voluntary. Something of the sort happens also with regard to the throwing of goods overboard in a storm; for in the abstract no one throws goods away voluntarily, but on condition of its securing the safety of himself and his crew any sensible man does so. Such actions, then, are mixed, but are more like voluntary actions; for they are worthy of choice at the time when they are done, and the end of an action is relative to the occasion. ”


  4. does anyone believe that in vetting generals for betrayus’ position, bush would accept anyone who would or could not be manipulated???? colin powell is a perfect example. i listen to that slime slug duncan hustler, god what a self serving son of a female dog. sorry to all those female dogs out there!!

  5. Judas betrayed Christ for 30 pices of silver, but Petraeus betrayed America for 1 Crome star and a row of fruit salad.

    Petraeus knew before he ever took the job that a military solution could never resolve the problem of Iraq. It seems to me that integrity would dictate that he avoid a situation where he is called upon to support a flawed political policy. Can’t he see where he loses his credibility? He should heed the wisdom of an old soldier.. Mine is not to reason why, mine is just to do or die.

  6. CF,
    Aristotle is speaking theoretically here. As you know, he has a whole theory of “privation” (Greek, steresis) whereby if a substance (e.g. the will) has an insufficient degree of a certain quality (e.g. freedom), it nevertheless still has it — unless it is totally absent.(see Metaphysiscs V.22) — The question at issue in Maha’s example is not whether the action is voluntary, but to what degree the will was COERCED. This is a central question in the theory of contracts, and Petraeus’ relation to Bush is in the nature of a contract. You would no doubt enjoy reading Sir Frederick Pollock’s Principles of Contract, Chapter XI, “Duress and Undue Influence.” Pollock writes, “At common law the coercion which will be a sufficient cause for avoiding a contract may consist in duress or menace; that is, either in actual compulsion or in the threat of it.”

  7. Well, I have been listening to the hearing on NPR.

    All of a sudden, I was struck dumb by something said by either Petraeus or Crocker which referred to Iraq as ‘an abused child’, i.e., this was said in the context of ‘Iraq will need lots of time and attention and patience and help’ from us…….I cannot remember the exact words used, but you get the idea. What so struck me about this was that the Bush team was ‘borrowing’ of the essence of liberal values and practices about the disadvantaged to ‘frame’ the Iraq issues!

    Now, if the righties want to use such a liberal frame, let’s see them say and do as much about the disadvantaged folks in America, you know, the unfortunates whom righties have dismissed as being self-responsible for their poverty, lack of health care and so forth.

    Only should the Bushies let go of the intent to control Iraq oil will I believe they have a real humanitarian concern for Iraq.

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  10. I have just returned from the future– summer 2008, when all sentient Americans are freely using the “Betray Us” epithet.

  11. Betrayus foresees a possible drawdown of troops in late 2008..And I foresee the possibility that I can grow a brain by 2008,although the probability of my growing a brain stands a higher chance of coming to fruition.

    This whole exericise in stalling and befuddling the will of the American public makes me think that the Congressional democrats should have gone down fighting during the last supplemental battle regardless of how it would be perceived politically. Bush has now cleared the way for a free and unobstructed run to the November 2008 goalpost. Run, Georgie, run…you out smarted them dumb asses. And the next President is really gonna know how hard nation building is.

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  13. Folks, put this in a larger frame. (something moveon should have done) If we put in more troops in Baghdad, violence will go down. Put in a LOT mre troops (except we don’t have them) violence would go down still more. US troop casualties would go up, but set that aside. The factions in Iraq would still hate each other – and the only way to maintain the peace would be to maintain an occupation force – forever. Which will enrage the Moslem world – inviting violence against Amerrica soldiers there, American interests worldwide, and America herself.

    We sent more troops to Baghdad – violence went down from horrendous to less horrendous – even if they cooked the books.
    SO FUGGIIN’ WHAT? This war was never presented to the public or Congress as a permanent – expensive – occupation of a country who does not want us – in a region that despises us now.

    The escalation still does not fit into any rational plan for an exit from Iraq. What we have (a nightmare) does not bear any resemblance to what we were initially sold.

    It’s good to look at the facts, but don’t get tangled in details. In the larger frame, the issue of a reduction of violence bought with GI blood has not changed the situation politically, and there is no reason to think that will change given that the blood fued is a few thousnad years old.

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  15. While I wish it were more complex than money, I don’t think it is. This whole thing has been part of Cheney Corp.’s plan from the very beginning. The whole war is just an excuse for him to make money for all his friends he met in his many years of public service. We are not leaving Iraq until every ounce of oil is out of that sand. Its that simple.

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  17. On the one hand we have an administration that has proactively sought to control both perceptions and facts on the war. They’ve been caught red-handed, serially denying people the means to get the facts, screwing with, inflating, and distorting the facts. They’ve disqualified themselves from contention among those asserting facts.

    But therer are other sources:

    – British Medical Society epidemeologists on death tolls.
    – The United Nations estimates of number of fleeing Iraqis up from 50,000/month to 60,000/month.
    – The AP which counted 1,809 Iraqi civilians killed in August compared to 1,760 in July.

    Isn’t it more than a little curious how those with a demonstrated conflict of interest, risking loss of face play fast and loose with the lives of the military to prove they are right?

    They don’t have much military to play fast and loose with anymore. Besides they’re focusing on Iran with a hair-brained scheme of taking out Irans military totally with airstrikes.

    How long will it take before the can-do attitude will be juxtaposed with their unable-to-do actions. Would one invest their life’s savings with a stockbroker with their track record of dismal failure?

    I suppose investing our countries lifeblood and future solvency is a different story but somehow I think that when everything that has been set in motion comes home to roost, many will be changing their tunes and looking for someone to blame.

    One thing’s for sure — In Bushworld it won’t be Bush’s fault but the fault of those who tied his hands.

  18. Of course, unless the Bushies are holding Gen. Petraeus’s mother hostage in the White House basement, he’s complicit in allowing his uniform to be used as political butt cover.

    Not entirely true. Petraeus must obey lawful orders, and “make sure your report supports my policy” is probably lawful. After all, part of fighting any war is creating and maintaining political support.

    What I think we can and should question is whether any such orders have been given, or whether Petraeus considers himself bound to try to make his CinC look good sans orders.

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  21. Steve Johnson: First, “betrayal of trust” is not the same thing as “traitor,” although IMO there aren’t words harsh enough to describe the contempt I feel for Bush. Second, your other link reveals you to be a brainless, Kool-Aid drinking fifth columnist in service to the New Totalitarian Order.. I can’t think of words harsh enough to describe the contempt I feel for you, either.

  22. WTF are you talking aboutMaha? All you unearthed was some obscure quotes by the American Computer Science Association, a California Conservative blogger named Gary Gross and Dave Gibson from the “American Partisan” website WHOEVER THE HELL THEY ARE? Have you ever even HEARD of these folks, I sure haven’t!



    Wesley Clark based most of his primary campaign on questioning President Bush’s patriotism. He said of Bush’s landing on an aircraft carrier, “I don’t think it’s patriotic.” He said that Bush had failed to do his duty to protect the country, and “if you’re patriotic, you do your duty.” He said of Iraq, “I don’t think it was a patriotic war.”

    Clark had plenty of company last week. At a Democratic event, Michael Moore bellowed of Republicans: “They are not patriots. They are hate-triots.” By which he means, presumably, that they have substituted hatred of the opposition for love of country. From the podium, Ted Kennedy denounced “false patriots,” and Howard Dean criticized those who fly “under a banner of false patriotism.” The implicit message from both was clear: Republicans aren’t true patriots.

    This fits a pattern. Back in May, Teresa Heinz Kerry called Dick Cheney “unpatriotic.”

    Sen. Bob Graham has said that Bush’s Iraq policy was “anti-patriotic at the core.”

    New York Rep. Nita Lowey has called Republicans “unpatriotic” for cutting taxes.

    Howard Dean, again, has said that Attorney General John Ashcroft “is not a patriot.”

    John Kerry himself has said that it was “unpatriotic” for Bush’s “friends” in the corporate world to outsource jobs overseas. For good measure, Kerry has called those corporate leaders “Benedict Arnold CEOs.”

    Given the nature of their incendiary charges against Bush, Democrats are almost forced into questioning his patriotism. If Bush really lied the country into a war of choice to boost his own political fortunes, he is a treasonous scoundrel. If the Bush administration creates terror alerts to provide itself political cover, as Dean thinks, it is an unpatriotic monstrosity. If Bush is a “fascist” — as Dean and prominent environmental activist Robert Kennedy Jr. suggested last week — he is un-American.

  23. Oh, one more thing, anyone out there feel free to find ANY EXAMPLE of a **prominent** Republican DIRECTLY questioning a Democrat’s patriotism in this overt a fashion. I GUARANTEE you will find NO SUCH QUOTES unless you resort to obscure, unread BOZOS like Maha already did! 😉

  24. None more indignant than the scoundrel. These are the folks who live and die with character assassination.

  25. JC — There’s a huge leap from accusing someone of being “unpatriotic” and accusing someone of treason. Not at all equivalent.

    I didn’t spend a lot of time looking for documentation, but since you asked, I spent another five seconds googling and found:

    Here’s a columnist at NewsMax who calls Jimmy Carter a traitor.

    John Hinderacker of PowerLine didn’t use the word “traitor” but said Carter is “on the other side.”

    Of course, we’re used to this from righties. Ann Coulter thinks liberals are traitors (see her book, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism) and Jonah Goldberg thinks liberals are fascists (see his book, Liberal Fascism).

    On top of that, it’s not impossible to find righties calling President Bush a traitor. Here’s a columnist at WorldNetDaily (you have heard of World NetDaily, I assume?) who calls President Bush a traitor to the Constitution because he signed McCain-Feingold into law. I documented more such accusations in this post. This is usually in reference to his immigration policies.

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