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The Petraeus/Crocker Show, Day 2, Part V

gillespie_ed.jpgIt’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.

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SEN. MENENDEZ QUESTIONS: Thank you for your service. Honor the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform — whichis why we must give them a policy that is worthy of their sacrifices, and we are not meeting that standard. Crocker, you said that competition between various factions is a competition between power and resources, not for building a nation. And we have American sons and daughters dying for this currently. Petraeus says that nation building is part of it — and Menendez says that is not what you said on page two of your testimony, and that he appreciates Petraeus putting it so bluntly in writing for the Congress. He points out that you are accellerating along the same timeline to bring the surge troops back home over the next six months and further — Petraeus says that what he is not doing is recommending continuing the surge.

Menendez says that what we are going ot end up with at July of next year is basically what we started with in February of this year. So where we are going to be is exactly where we were last January/February. In the category of “fully independent” and “with coalition support” — Iraqi forces are just about where they were in November of 2006. Eleven months later, we are still at about the same levels. Petraeus says that the key reason for that is that Iraqis have been fighting and dying, which has made it difficult to maintain their level of readiness and equipment maintenance.

With what you know today, how many more years will American soldiers have to continue in Iraq? Petraeus says that he can’t give an answer. That he would be doing a disservice to our soldiers if he tried to layout a timeline — I’m as frustrated with this situation as anyone else, this is going on a 3 year deployment for me on top of a year in Bosnia. Menendez says he appreciates that — as do all those families who are also dealing with this seemingly endless conflict. The Benchmarks were created by the Iraqi government, signed off on by the Bush WH, and now you are saying we should just forget about those.

SEN. ISAKSON QUESTIONS: Thanks for service, and gosh people find you trustworthy. Says that unanimously that the world thought that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. [CHS notes: Um…beg to differ, but there were a LOT of questions raised, both here and worldwide on the veracity of that — by UN weapons inspectors, other nation’s intel agencies, and also including within the Bush Administration/US government by the very intel people tasked with finding those WMDs. Lying publicly is crass, wrong and does his constituents a substantial disservice — and any Georgia readers should make that clear to his office and to local newspapers.] Isakson likes the lovely chart that makes it look like there is an end in sight — and helpfully points out that we can’t put a timetable on when that might happen because we have no idea the way things are going at the moment when that might be. [CHS notes: And I always wanted a pony, too…] Points out that Crocker said back in July that failure to reach benchmarks in Iraq shouldn’t really be considered a lack of progress. I take it from what y’all are saying, that de-Ba’athification and ground up reforms are picking up steam? Crocker says that it’s both ground up and top down.

SEN. CARDIN QUESTIONS: Thanks for your service, your leadership, and to the extraordinary service our troops and foreign service officers are giving. I want to talk about the frustration that we and you have expressed. When the President made a controversial decision to surge our troops, there were certain benchmarks which we expected to achieve — we had express goals. It is now time for us to evaluate this. When we look at violence, I appreciate the charts — but by our own acknowledgement, it is still too high. We have other reports that tell us that violence has accellerated in some areas. We have a large number of displaced people who have moved — from out of Baghdad and out of Iraq altogether. Iraqis believe that they are no safer now than they were before the surge. The report from Gen. Jones tells us that the national Iraqi police force is in terrible shape and may need to be disbanded.

In terms of political reconciliation, by your own acknowledgement, is a failure. The agreed to benchmarks have not been achieved on political fronts. Which leads us to the third standard — Gen. Petraeus, you indicate that hopefully within 7 months, we can get back to 130,000, which is no troop reduction. We’re just back to where we were before the surge, which is not a troop reduction. You shouldn’t try to change the standards — we have failed on those benchmarks.

Where do we go from here? We all agree that we need a stronger diplomatic effort. In this climate where the US is perceived as an occupational force in Iraq, and where there is no incentive for other nations and organizations to get involved — what motivation is there with the US taking on just about the complete burden outside the Iraqis themselves — what incentive is there for other nations or organizations to get involved? Crocker says that there is a growing realization in the region and in the community that what happens in Iraq is important. There have recently been both regional and international initiatives that have gained some momentum. Cardin says he isn’t seeing that, given that we are constantly picking up the ball — and that most of the nations in these initiatives have strongly disagreed with our military policies in Iraq.

SEN. VITTER QUESTIONS: Thanks to both of your for your dedicated and courageous public service, and to everyone serving there. Given our current political environment, I think it is important that we all say that and that we all mean that. I think it is important that we all pass an amendment on the Senate floor and specifically decrying the MoveOn.org ad. [CHS notes: Oh, GAWD. There is no end to the asinine PR machine, is there? As if the sole important question in America today is whether or not the wingnut talking points get air time. This helps any of our miliatry and their families how, exactly? Jeebus…coming from a man who has a hooker history, the public ethical standards lecture rings a bit hollow.] Asks Petraeus if there is a possibility of success. He says probably. Reducing level of violence is key. Taking into very keen awareness of the strain we have placed on the Army and Marines in particular — we cannot continue the surge at these levels, have to help the military at large to reconstitute its forces. Says he is personally aware of the strain that this puts on families, and we need to be aware of this — we have to have the assets to be involved over the long term in Iraq.

Crocker says that the most important lesson is one that the central government has already shown: reaching out to other factions that had previously been shoved to the side. Be sure that provincial development and central goernment are linked.

SEN. CASEY QUESTIONS: Appreciate your service and time here. Start with Petraeus. Looks at an excerpt from the NIE that we judge that the Iraqi security forces have not improved enough to initiate actions independent of the American military. Asks Petraeus what he thinks? No, he thinks that is correct at this point. It is one thing to train them, it is another thing to help an institution be re-established — rebuilding depo systems, logistical structures, etc. The magnitude of reestablishing the institutional underpinnings of the Iraqi military and police services has been an enormous task and a huge undertaking. In 2006, these units had been hijacked by sectarian interests, we are still dealing with the ramifications of that today despite substantial replacements and work on this issue. Refer to the report from Gen. Jones — substantial reliance on American supply chain issues and otherwise.

Then refers to Petraeus chart — the level on readiness that they can independently take on the enemy, it has increased virtually not at all in the last 18 months. When you look at all of this, and your past statements about “enormous progress,” the reality of what is not happening — I think you can understand both the frustration and skepticism on assertions here about that. Petraeus doesn’t see saying “tangible progress” as an extraordinary statement.

SEN. WEBB QUESTIONS: Three observations to make: (1) You understand, both of you, and I hope most people, that one of the reasons we are struggling so hard is that there are large numbers of people who have substantial national security experience who think that this was was an enormous strategic blunder. There were many of us who were pointing out early on that what we are looking at now — that what we see on the ground as problems are exactly what we would see if we invaded. (References Scowcroft, Zinni, etc.) (2) With regard to Anbar, my son fought there — and I know conditions on the ground and I associate with what Sen. Obama was saying that success there is a bit separate and apart from the surge tactic. (3) One of the reasons that I got into politics, the litany that I kept hearing “we’ll stay in Iraq as long a is necessary and not one day more.” We need more specificity and I am certain you can understand that.

Uses a quote of Eisenhower — “appeal to the heroism of its youth.” “Where do we go from here? When comes the end? Is there an end?” Eisenhower said that the first task was to bring the Korean war to an early and honorable end. Need strong diplomatic effort — what you are calling reconciliation — I don’t see that, I see maybe an attempt at conciliation. Without those, we are simply making tactical adjustments. And the changes in tactical deployment for our soldiers and marines — that concerns me. Goes through why that is — problems for families and soldiers alike. What is your view of that 3/4 to one policy? Petraeus says he would like to see our soldiers have more time at home with their families. One of the reasons he has said that our force numbers need to be larger. We are doing the best we can to accomplish the military tasks with what we currently have. Webb says that he was told that the WH feeds the military the strategy and they feed the troops into it — somewhere in there, there needs to be some substantial consideration given to the well-being of the troops and not to the WH political considerations. Petraeus says that the draw-down of the surge was made as recommendations considering this.

Biden thanks them, but says that he doesn’t see any plan or levelling with the American public on the way forward here.

End of this particular hearing.

NOTE: The Peanut will be arriving home from school shortly, so I have to stop doing any liveblogging here. There will be continued hearings — this afternoon in the Armed Services Committee. Am going to try and follow along, but a 4 year old can only watch so much Congressional coverage — and it is really impossible for me to liveblog once she gets home. Sorry gang, but hopefully folks can keep everyone up to date as comments go forward here and there.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com

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