Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I don't think they were having a very good day

But then, the Iraqis don't have very many good days, either, and few of them can look forward to lucrative careers as consultants, lobbyists, and/or board members in their retirement.

While Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum were testifying before Congress today, Mother Jones reports on life back in the Green Zone.
...U.S. embassy officials in Baghdad have been ordered to take heightened security precautions in light of stepped-up attacks on the Green Zone, including one on Sunday that killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded 17 others.

Under this new security boost, says a U.S. Embassy official who asked not to be identified, embassy personnel have been told to remain under "hardened cover." Instructed to avoid their trailers, some embassy staffers are now sleeping in their offices and on cots in the new embassy building, currently under construction, according to a source who has spoken with embassy officials in Baghdad. Embassy personnel have also been cautioned to limit their trips outdoors and, when they must leave the protection of reinforced structures, to wear flak jackets, protective eyewear, and helmets.
h/t to John Aravosis at Americablog.

Since every piece of bad news we hear is spun as yet another sign of success, things must be going swimmingly.

Meanwhile, in DC, there were some challenging moments, such as when Sen. Biden forced Amb. Crocker to answer a very thorny question:
SEN. BIDEN: Mr. Ambassador, is Al Qaeda a greater threat to US interests in Iraq, or in the Afghan-Pakistan border region?

AMB. CROCKER: Mr. Chairman, Al Qaeda is a strategic threat to the United States wherever it is, in my view–

SEN. BIDEN: Where is most of it? If you could take it out? You had a choice: Lord almighty came down and sat in the middle of the tabel there and said mr ambassadro you can elimibnate every AQ source in afghanistan and pak, or every aq personell in Iraq, which would you pick?

AMB. CROCKER: Well given the progress that has been made again Al Qaeda in Iraq, the significant decrease in its capabilities, the fact that it is solidly on the defensive, and not in a position of–

SEN. BIDEN: Which would you pick, Mr. Ambassador?

AMB. CROCKER: I would therefore pick Al Qaeda in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.

SEN BIDEN: That would be a smart choice.
[Emphasis mine. And yes, we have the video.]

h/t to dday at Daily Kos.

dday's comment seems not out of place:
You can actually end this hearing right now. We have all the information we need. Joe Biden made the entire Administration policy for 6 years look foolish.
Marcy had this to say at emptywheel:
I suspect because of the dynamics of the Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee actually seems to be making progress. So far this hearing, we have established:

  1. Everyone has had it with this war--Republican and Democrat.
  2. The biggest threat to the United States from Al Qaeda is in Pakistan and Afghanistan, not in Iraq (as Biden got Crocker, the former Ambassador to Pakistan, to admit).
  3. Petraeus and Crocker agree with Barbara Boxer and a bunch of other Republican and Democratic Senators--and presumably will go tell Bush as much--that Iraq has got to start paying for its own militias.
  4. We will never remove the threats of AQI and Iranian influence in Iraq, so the best end point we should strive for is to achieve some kind of stability in Iraq.
Sen. Obama executed some rather clean tactical strikes today.
Should we be successful in Mosul, should you continue, General, with the effective operations that you've been engaged in, assuming that in that narrow military effort we are successful, do we anticipate that there ever comes a time where Al Qaida in Iraq could not reconstitute itself?

[exchanges with Gen. Petraeus]

OBAMA: OK. I just want to be clear if I'm understanding. We don't anticipate that there's never going to be some individual or group of individuals in Iraq that might have sympathies toward Al Qaida. Our goal is not to hunt down and eliminate every single trace, but rather to create a manageable situation where they're not posing a threat to Iraq or using it as a base to launch attacks outside of Iraq. Is that accurate?

PETRAEUS: That is exactly right.

OBAMA: OK. And it's also fair to say that, in terms of our success dealing with Al Qaida, that the Sunni Awakening has been very important, as you've testified. The Sons of Iraq and other tribal groups have allied themselves with us.

There have been talks about integrating them into the central government. However, it's been somewhat slow, somewhat frustrating. And my understanding, at least, is, although there's been a promise of 20 to 30 percent of them being integrated into the Iraqi security forces, that has not yet been achieved; on the other hand, the Maliki government was very quick to say, "We're going to take another 10,000 Shias into the Iraqi security forces."

And I'm wondering, does that undermine confidence on the part of the Sunni tribal leaders, that they are actually going to be treated fairly and they will be able to incorporate some of these young men of military age into the Iraqi security forces?


OBAMA: OK, let me shift to Iran.

Just as -- and, Ambassador Crocker, if you want to address this, you can. Just as it's fair to say that we're not going to completely eliminate all traces of Al Qaida in Iraq, but we want to create a manageable situation, it's also true to say that we're not going to eliminate all influence of Iran in Iraq, correct?

That's not our goal. That can't be our definition of success, that Iran has no influence in Iraq.

So can you define more sharply what you think would be a legitimate or fair set of circumstances in the relationship between Iran and Iraq, that would make us feel comfortable drawing down our troops?
h/t to Paul Kiel at TPM.

The Senator knows how to ask good questions. It is also evident that, in the sharpest possible contrast with Sen. McCain, Obama knows who the players and what the issues in Iraq are.

The video of Obama's questions and comments, in two parts, may be seen here and here.
--the BB


Grandmère Mimi said...

I liked it when Biden told the two that, before committing the next administration to an open-ended stay in Iraq, the military would have to get permission from the Congress, rather than simply inform them. Then Clinton followed up saying that the Iraqi parliament will have a say, so why not the US Congress.

If Petraeus and Crocker have any sense at all, they will begin making plans and informing the Iraqi leadership that they should make plans, too, because the time-table for staying in Iraq may not be open-ended.

I heard a retired general on Countdown - don't know his name - say that the military leadership are not supporting the troops, but are rather brutalizing them.

Paul said...

I hate the idea of the troops being brutalized. Makes me sick to think of it.

A large part of the dilemma of being in the chain of command is being responsible both to those you lead and those you report to. When those two factors are in conflict, we know which side usually gets the loyalty. Sigh.