The General Betray-us report

Josh Marshall points to an article by Karen DeYoung buried in the WaPo that indicates just how worthless the breathlessly awaited September 11 Petraeus report will be.

We also learn from DeYoung’s article that as a basic matter of categorization, the Petraeus/White House numbers don’t include the deaths of people killed by our friends (new Sunni allies in al Anbar). They don’t include deaths of people killed by members of their own sect (Sunni-on-Sunni, Shia-on-Shia, etc.). They count or don’t count based on things like where a person has been shot in the head.

One intelligence analyst told DeYoung, “If a bullet went through the back of the head, it’s sectarian. If it went through the front, it’s criminal.”

It’s a little difficult to tell from the immediate context of the quote whether there’s a little embellishment or whether that’s literally true in every case about the methodology being used. But taken together what we can glean about the methodology — which I take it is itself classified — is that it is a classic case of presupposing the result in the methodology itself. DeYoung actually has a good quote in her piece from the Iraq Study Group that concisely explains the problem: “Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals.”

Indeed.

We’ve all read about the fraud this “report” represents – how the goalposts surrounding it were shifted, how the White House itself is writing the report, how General Petraeus, who none us ever heard of until this year, is now all of a sudden the oracle upon whose judgement everything rests, how the report will just be another exercise in cynicism, telling us if we just “turn the next corner” we can win in Iraq although no one can define any more what it means to “win.” And the media are playing their part, pretending with open-eyed wonder that there will actually be something of meaning in this report, something that can, after four torturous years, turn it all around on a dime. America, this is the Bush administration taking you for yet another ride. It’s just one more sham.

John Cole elaborates.

If there is anyone out there who honestly thought Petraeus would come to Congress on the 11th and tell us it was time for a substantial drawdown or anything other than that ‘the surge is working,’ please surrender your car keys to someone sane. I don’t want you on the road. Bush made it clear in his interview with Draper that we are here for the long haul, and that is what is going to happen. We are going to be there, in large numbers, until the military breaks. Or longer. Just get used to it. There is nothing you can do, because the Decider has decided. The dog and pony show that comes next week is just to make things easier politically for doing the course of action that has been chosen- the reports we may withdraw some troops were just something thrown out there to mollify the opposition before getting back to Operation ‘DO WHATEVER THE FUCK WE WANT.’

All of the reports of problems by independent and respected group and backed up by hard data don’t matter. Their recommendations don’t matter. All the administration needs to do is count on the Weekly Standard and Michael O’Hanlon and the rest of the crowd to go out and do what they have been doing for years, and this administration has the cover they need. And if you argue otherwise, Bush and his supporters will claim you aren’t giving our troops what they need to win. Or that it is just the liberal media reporting only bad news.

Last link, and then I’ll leave you alone: A former writer for Stars and Stripes dispassionately demolishes the latest Bush bullshit excuse for staying in Iraq forever, namely that we are there to fight al-Qaeda, which is behind most of the violence. Just one brief excerpt from a splendid article.

[N]o one has more incentive to overstate the threat of AQI than President Bush and those in the administration who argue for keeping a substantial military presence in Iraq. Insistent talk about AQI aims to place the Iraq War in the context of the broader war on terrorism. Pointing to al- Qaeda in Iraq helps the administration leverage Americans’ fears about terrorism and residual anger over the attacks of September 11. It is perhaps one of the last rhetorical crutches the president has left to lean on.

Did I mention what day General Betray-us will be unveiling his Excellent New Report – September 11? Just a coincidence. Except there are no coincidences with this administration that is so obsessed with cheap propaganda gimmicks that manipulate the public’s emotions (“Mission Accomplished,” anyone?). No coincidences, and no shame, either. To hell with them. The sooner the better.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 6 Comments

Richard, your criticisms of both administration Iraq policies in general, and the surge in particular, are valid (but not indisputable) and within a long tradition of civilized political debate. Labelling GEN Petraeus as GEN “Betray-us” however, is a cheap shot that does not befit your normally biting yet often accurate commentary. Anyone who follows U.S. military affiars would be aware of Petraeus’ rise in military circles over the past decade. That said, he may, or may not be, the proconsul needed at the moment. I’m sure we can hotly debate both sides of that question without impugning the honor the man sitting in the Baghdad hot seat.

September 10, 2007 @ 10:33 am | Comment

I guess I was bothered by his meeting with Hugh Hewitt, and now the announcement that after the hearing he will be interviewed by…Fox News. He is partisan and he is a political prop, I believe. As one of the best blogger/reporters out there writes:

Now, it isn’t exactly a big surprise that a Gillespie-run public-relations team in the White House would be fully integrated into Gen. Petraeus’ team, but it does reinforce what observers have known for quite a while now: Petraeus is a part of the president’s political operation. That’s not necessarily a criticism. It is, however, a realization that Petraeus’ testimony is not that of a neutral, dispassionate observer.

As Ezra said the other day, “Next week, Petraeus will not be acting as a general and he will not be acting as a soldier; he will be acting as a media campaign. He is the White House’s press strategy.”

I really think he has sold out. There is no way a man of his intelligence and rank could get up in front of Congress and deliver with a straight face a report so obviously contrived and manipulated to convey the president’s message that we are “winning” and just “need more time” (the same thing we’ve heard for more than four years).

Maybe it was harsh to call him “Betray-us.” I just feel….betrayed.

September 10, 2007 @ 6:44 pm | Comment

Betrayus?
I hope it doesn’t turn out that way, but it does sound as though the goal posts just got moved again.

I have a nephew who recently returned from Anbar and he certainly didn’t describe the situation “on the ground” as something that a few more months of increased troop levels will help one way or another.

He was wounded while driving around on patrol, waiting for the inevitable explosion.
It was the third time, for him, that a vehicle had been destroyed and friends killed and injured.

They just kept repeating the same routine; drive around until you are hit, then get another vehicle and more soldiers to replace the ones that were taken out of action.

Sounds like “stay the course” as usual.

September 11, 2007 @ 4:33 am | Comment

Baloney! Sad and pathetic at best.

September 11, 2007 @ 10:58 am | Comment

Hi,

Thought this news might be of some interest to your readers:

NEW moveon,org TV ad coming out on monday sept 17th…basically calling president bush a traitor.

Catch it here:
MoveOn.org TV Ad

For general david betray us fans or not:
General David Betray Us

Have a great weekend!
Dan

September 15, 2007 @ 10:05 am | Comment

Update, you are a piece of work, linking to a site where it shows images of a delightful Iraq, where our soldiers are loved, where the war is going just great. I can show you pictures of our soldiers with limbs shattered, spines smashed, parts of their faces blown away; photos of cute little girls with no limbs at all; photos of US citizens burned alive or beheaded That site you link to is depraved, calling all liberals “commies.” I wouldn’t say Petraeus is a traitor, but he did betray us with his performance last week.

September 15, 2007 @ 12:06 pm | Comment

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