If you haven’t already read Pat Lang on Bush’s surprise visit to Iraq today, do so now. For whatever PR value BushCo is trying to milk out of this visit (here’s C&L with coverage), Lang is persuasive that the chief reason for the visit is to bring his war cheerleaders together to develop a game plan for the next few weeks.

I note that the president’s travel party to AssadAir base in Anbar Province includes; Gates, Rice, Pace, Fallon, Lute,Hadley.  There, he will, of course, see Petraeus and Crocker as well. Anyone else of note? Any AEIers? Sounds like a council of war to me. Nice and isolated, minimal press interference and possibility ofoperational security planning breach.  Well thought out.  This will bea good place to get everyone "on board" and to coordinate tactics forthe Petraeus/Crocker show to come.

I’d love to know the answer to the questions Lang lays out. Learning who else attended this meeting would tell us a lot about ongoing strategy. Did they really have this meeting without anyone from OVP? For the record, I’m not entirely sure Hadley attended, though he could be considered an OVP mole if he did. And the WaPo quoted Ed Gillespie speaking on AF1, so he may have attended, too.

David Cloud of the NYT suggests there may be more to things:

Though Mr. Bush and General Petraeus had met as recently as last weekby video hookup, the seemingly last-minute nature of the trip and thearray of top officials from both governments who attended did not meanthere were deep disagreements among President Bush’s top advisers aboutstrategy in Iraq, they said.

And if there was a disagreement–either between Maliki and the Administration, or those who attended, it makes the attendance list all the more interesting.



Marcy Wheeler aka Emptywheel is an American journalist whose reporting specializes in security and civil liberties.