The Petraeus/Crocker Show, Day 2, Part IV
It’s “gimme more FUs day.” I’m going to try and liveblog as much of the Petraeus/Crocker Dog and Pony Show and WH-Written Talking Points as I can. Do try to restrain yourself on comments to be kind to the servers and your liveblogger. Thanks!
Today, I’m featuring this lovely photo (via CNN) of WH/GOP message man Ed Gillespie to give him some public credit for manufacturing both the Petraeus and Crocker public talking points and the GOP-caucus strategic coordination as well. Via Open Left:
As if this is not obvious already.
Another new arrival in the West Wing set up a rapid-response PR unit hard-wired into Petraeus’s shop. Ed Gillespie, the new presidential counselor, organized daily conference calls at 7:45 a.m. and again late in the afternoon between the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the U.S. Embassy and military in Baghdad to map out ways of selling the surge.
From the start of the Bush plan, the White House communications office had been blitzing an e-mail list of as many as 5,000 journalists, lawmakers, lobbyists, conservative bloggers, military groups and others with talking points or rebuttals of criticism. Between Jan. 10 and last week, the office put out 94 such documents in various categories — “Myths/Facts” or “Setting the Record Straight” to take issue with negative news articles, and “In Case You Missed It” to distribute positive articles or speeches. (emphasis mine)
Dodge and phony show indeed. This is the WHIG strategy…again.
SEN. NELSON QUESTIONS: Asks Crocker if there is any chance for political reconcilation without accord between Sunnis and Shi’ites. No. What is the potential for that sort of reconcilation during the next 16 months of the Bush Administration’s tenure? Crocker can’t say. Is the Anbar success because of the fact that the political reconciliation question is not there since it is an all Sunni province? Crocker says yes and no. Uses Diala (sp?) province as example of mixed province where there has been political reconciliation. With Petraeus saying that there would be a draw down back to the prior number of 130,000 troops, there would be only four months left in the Bush Administration — indicating that this would result in a hand-off of the problem to the next President. What does Crocker think of that? Crocker says he can’t really comment on that. You ahve been having discussions with the Iranian Amb., do you have any optimism with regard to Iran that gives us any indication that they do not want to take full advantage in Iraq to the detriment of the US interests? Crocker says that the discussions have not resulted in any visible improvement in Iranian actions — I’m not saying this isn’t worth pursuing, but we may see results in the future. Are you concerned as you talk with Iran that Iran is going to be behind a Hezbollah-like insurgency in Iraq? Crocker says that they are already involved in that type of process. [CHS notes: Is it too much to ask that Democratic Senators don’t parrot GOP talking points?]
Biden recognizes a former committee staffer who has been working in Iraq for 29 months. 5 minute break.
SEN. MURKOWSKI QUESTIONS: Gosh, your testimony is important and swell. [Am paraphrasing here.] What you are saying sounds identical to what the Bush Administration has been saying all along — that our forces will draw down as the Iraqi forces stand up. Is this the same policy — that we are entirely reliant on the Iraqis making progress, otherwise we cannot reduce our own forces? Is that what you are saying? Petraeus ducks the question and says that we are moving our forces around — talking about some success in Fallujah, as an example, of thinning out forces in one area to move them to another area where they are more needed. Any draw down is clearly conditions based — but we are trying to push the conditions as fast as we can without resulting in failure. Says that too much of a push in 2006 resulted in a collapse. Goes back to defend himself against what Boxer said about his prior rosy scenario evaluations. Murkowski wants to know about the civilian side of things. Says that Gen. Odierno told her that this segment of the puzzle had not been effective. Points to Crocker — you seem satisfied with this, yet we look at the economy which is performing under potential. Is the civilian surge adequate to support the military surge? Asks if Petraeus has enough support on the civilian side. Petraeus says they would like to have more — agriculture, health and some others, are quite thin.
SEN. OBAMA QUESTIONS: Performance of our troops has been outstanding, and we thank them for their service. Also, both of you are doing the best that you can given an extraordinarily difficult situation. The mission that has been given to you is what is at issue inthe Senate — the question is one of strategy, not of tactics. Every time you have been asked a question of broader strategy, you’ve punted a little bit. But because, as Sen. Feingold pointed out, we do not have limitless resources, we have to assess our priorities — the costs as well as benefits — to pursuing a particular strategy. I think we should not have had this discussion on 9/11 — because it perpetuates the notion that what happened with Iraq somehow had something to do with what happened on 9/11. This isn’t to relitigate going into Iraq, but it is to sugest that had the American public and Congress understood then that after devoting $1 trillion dollars (optimistically what this will cost), thousands of American lives, the creation of an environment where al qaeda in Iraq could operate (because it didn’t exist there prior to our invasion), that we have increased terrorist recruitment around the world, that Iran has been strengthened, that Bin Laden and al qaeda are stronger now than at any time since 2001, that Iraqi reconstruction and their standard of living would continue to be lower than it was pre-invasion — if that had been the deal, msot people would have said that this was not a good deal. That this does not serve American strategic interests.
We have set the bar so low — that now we have only slightly less tolerable levels of violence than we did in 2006 — and it is not okay. What we are faced with now is how to make the best out of a horrible situation where we have bad options and worse options. This is not a criticism of either of you — but of the Bush Administration, whose policies ahve put us in this situation in the first place. How can we, in a bi-partisan way, best move this forward — the Bush Administration is not helping matters by dismissing criticisms.
The improvement, if at all, has been very modest. The movement in Anbar has nothing to do with the surge, it’s political. What we haven’t seen, most significantly, is any improvement in the political reconcilation question. We need to be clear and on the record with this, because it is in this context that we have to ask questions today. Back to the stand down when they stand up. Asks Petraeus about the counter-insurgency manual that he wrote — counter-insurgency will not work if the government doesn’t exhibit a will on par with ours. Crocker, you said that the patience of the American public is not limitless, but that seems to be exactly what you are asking for here today. What is the point where we say enough? If we are there a year from now, can you explain to me any set of circumstances, scenario, set of benchmarks where you might make a different recommendation? Crocker goes back to the Sununu response from earlier — says Iraq is ethno-sectarian competition for power and resources, and that we are hoping they will move more to a political arena and not to a violent one. Need to capitalize on political viability as security elements stablize, assuming they do.
SEN. DeMINT QUESTIONS: Most of us would agree that when we went into Iraq, we got a lot more than we bargained for — our military and political leaders should be shamed by their lack of foresight and thought on the worst case scenarios that we have seen. There is not a process that can sustain a government and/or secure society. Nevertheless, we are there. Our only other choice is to disgrace our choice and dishonor our fallen troops and leave. The fact that you are here today talking about tiny successes is a cause for celebration in my mind. In my mind, the only relevent question is where we go from here. Your statement that you want to draw down troop levels to the pre-surge level is welcome, and the Crocker assessments that things may get better are heartening. My question to both of you is this: is there any reasonable expectation for any viable, long-term peace in Iraq, if the conditions in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia remain the same?
Crocker says this is a great question, because Iraq is in a rough neighborhood and that complicates the political questions considerably. Iran has been a malign actor in Iraq, but there are limits on what Iran can do. Iran is not an Arab state — and there are limits and a long history of conflict between the two. Mentioned in testimony that the Saudis are re-opening their embassy in Baghdad. Jordan has made some positive statements. There are still reservations, more they can do, but moving in a positive direction. Syria is more problematic. They’ve hosted close to a million refugees, but have still allowed suicide bombers and other bad actors to cross their border.
Petraeus says that you can’t win in Iraq just with Iraq. Syria needs to tighten its airport security — foreign fighters who come through there and through the borders. We believe there may be some training camps over there, still trying to develop intelligence on this and questions about the accuracy on this. Ethno-sectarian violence is clearly stoked by outside actors. Gets back to Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah Dept. 2800 — capture some months ago of the heads of so-called special groups affiliated with al-Sadr. That makes the situation in Iraq more difficult than it ought to be — the militia munitions do, in fact, come from Iran.
Am going to start a fresh thread…