Gen. Petraeus Interviewed by Alan Colmes

Via Instapundit and Hugh Hewitt, Gen. Petraeus is interviewed by Alan Colmes, who no kidding, does a great job. A very sincere thanks to Hewitt for providing it. The most interesting parts, based on the unofficial transcript provided by a Hewitt reader:

COLMES: The surge strategy has been referred to by some as the Petraeus Doctrine and when you and Ambassador Ryan Crocker report to Congress on September 15, it would be unlikely for you to report that your own strategy isn't working, right?

PETRAEUS: Well, I have vowed that I will provide a forthright and comprehensive assessment and I'm not going to pull punches, and I have all along, frankly, reported setbacks as well as successes and we intend to do that when we go back and it will not be an unblemished report.

The interim benchmark report was not an unblemished report. It's more of a mixed bag. There has been progress in certain areas. Certainly there has been tactical progress. There has been progress again in this sort of local reconciliation but there has not been comparable progress at the national political level here in Iraq. . . .MORE

COLMES: You've been - you've come under fire in the press in this country for a series of positive reports as far back as 2004 when you actually appeared with Charlie Rose and you talked with reconciliation and progress along those lines. In 2005, when you made a presentation, I believe it was at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, and you showed pictures of Sunnis and Shiites standing together. You talked about huge progress on November 7, 2005 being made in training Iraqi Combined (ph) troops.

Do you still stand by all of those statements or has time shown in some of those cases the progress to which you were referring was not exactly as great as may have been implied?

PETRAEUS: No, I certainly do. And in fact if you go back and look at those you'll find that generally those reports of progress were also tempered by reports of caution and measured statements.

Some of what we did was undone by a variety of different events that tragically transpired and I don't think anyone disputes that Mosul was moving along quite well when we were privileged to be up there with the 101st Airborne Division.

Unfortunately, six months after we left the governor was assassinated, the political situation went into turmoil and four months later the police collapsed under the weight of an al Qaeda offensive. That was a huge setback and there were no bones made about it but it didn't mean that there had not been progress in the year prior to that.

I think, tragically, the progress that was made in the Iraqi security force arena, and again, I think if you look at what I provided at those times, that there was acknowledgements that it was literally always a term of qualified optimism or what have you and it depended on continued progress and continued efforts in certain areas but the sectarian violence of 2006 very sadly undid an awful lot of what had been achieved in previous years and as you know, it spiraled out of control to levels that were really horrific and tore the very fabric of Iraqi society in the latter part of 2006 and into early 2007.

We're still, frankly, dealing with that situation very much and it is a situation that has much more fear, as Ambassador Crocker has described rightly in a number of occasions than certainly we experienced prior to the last departure from here in September 2005 for me, for example.

COLMES: So when you made those statements in 2004 in 2005, and talked about great progress and some degree of reconciliation, there was no way to foresee that there would be such sectarian violence in 2006 and early 2007 to kind of blow up some of those statements from earlier?

PETRAEUS: Well, I don't think anyone foresaw the Samarra Mosque, the third holiest Shia shrine being blown up the way that it was, nor the events that followed that over time and unfortunately that happened at a time when you'll recall - there were these moments of optimism, certainly, first of all following liberation, then with the elections, the new government, the transition from CPA to the Allawi government, the famous purple finger moments and I think it's very legitimate to feel some degree of optimism at times like that.

I will tell you that I at this point in this endeavor will not say I am an optimist or a pessimist, I will say that I am a realist. And I have a very realistic appraisal of the challenges that are here and the enormous difficulties that face this country in our endeavor.

COLMES: Jack Kelly (ph) in the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" reported in August of 2005. He said ever since Army Lieutenant General, at the time, you've been promoted since, David Petraeus took responsibility for training Iraqi security forces last year, the target date for beginning a major American withdrawal has been June 2006. What happened?

PETRAEUS: Well, what happened was in part the Samarra Mosque bombing, again. And the rise of sectarian violence that resulted in certain of the Iraqi units being actually hijacked by sectarian interests. Very sadly.

Some of the units that were among the most courageous say in the fall, winter of 2004 and into early 2005 really became instruments of sectarian instruments later in Iraq's time and in fact, the minister of interior has replaced all nine of the brigade commanders of the national police and about 70 percent of the battalion commanders in the last four to six months so things did take a turn, certainly for the worse and that sectarian violence did do enormous damage to this country.

COLMES: General Petraeus, "The Washington Post" reported on Monday of this week that the Pentagon lost track of about 190,000 AK-47s, assault rifles and pistols given to the Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005. The U.S. Accountability Office says U.S. military officials don't know what happened to 30 percent of the weapons and I quote from the piece that says, "The GAO says weapons distribution was haphazard and rushed and failed to follow established procedures, particularly from 2004 to 2005 when security training was led by General David H. Petraeus."

What happened?

PETRAEUS: Well, what happened was we were in a period where, as you'll recall, the Iraqi units of April 2004 had really crumbled when they were ordered into operations during the first Fallujah uprising and when we came in a started standing up the train and equip mission that came to be known as the Multinational Security Transition Command in Iraq in the summer of 2004, there was not much in the way of structure.

We did start to receive equipment, both from - ordered by the CPA initially and also by the Iraqi government and it was a tough situation.

August was the time when Muqtada al Sadr took over the mosque in Najaf and again forces had to go into action. By that time we then had some Iraqi forces that were ready to fight but they didn't have equipment and that was the beginning of a number of decisions to help provide equipment top Iraqi forces, sometimes literally under fire. In one case actually flying into Najaf, into a helipad at night, a hot LZ, literally, in Chinook helicopters and actually kicking two battalions worth of equipment off the ramp and getting out of there while we still could.

That type of decision was something that we made at the time because those forces needed those weapons and that equipment. We weren't going to stay there in the dark and make guys do a serial number inventory and sign them up and that is what happened. We believe those weapons all certainly were given to Iraqi units. Those units did have advisors, but they did not have the property book officer, they did not have the property book records that we would associate with normal procedures and yet they were units that needed to go into the fight, the Iraqi government was under enormous pressure. They made their request known to us and frankly it seemed to us that we needed to get the weapons into
their hands and so that is what we did.

And that's what resulted was an inability to track by serial number some percentage of those weapons that were issued during that time.

As we got into the - as we built slowly that new headquarters, the Multinational Security Transition Command and its subordinate elements, we were able to establish normal property accountability procedures, to get property book officers in to create literally a property book, as it's called, and to support the same with these new Iraqi units as they came online.

But they were, frankly, building them faster, in fact, under pressure because of the Allawi government trying to get a grip on the violence that was rising during the fall of 2004 and staring elections in January 2005 squarely in the face, to do all that they could and again we had to decide whether to hold things out until we could get every single piece in place or again, help them out when they wanted to fight and confront al Qaeda, the insurgents and the other associated movements at that time and we decided to help them out.

COLMES: You say you have a sense of where those 190,000 weapons are or is there a good chance that some of them fell into the hands of the insurgency and how do you prevent this from happening again?

PETRAEUS: Well, we did in fact take measures, Alan, again, starting in the spring of that year as we got these warrant officers in, these property book officers and so forth and created first our own logistical structures commensurate with a task of that magnitude and it was an enormous task.

We occasionally likened it to building the world's largest air craft while in flight and while being shot at. But we gradually starting putting those procedures into place. Got them really established, I'd say in the summer of 2005 and then built from there and continued gradually to build the Iraqi depot system, their own property accountability systems and all the rest of that, keeping in mind, again, that this is being done while these units literally were fighting.

They went from the parade field the battlefield in very short order and that was the order of the day and again, over time, those procedures were put in place and I think the GAO acknowledges that and notes that fact.

COLMES: How many of those weapons do you think would be in the hands of our enemies?

PETRAEUS: I don't know. Again, reestablished accountability for the vast majority of them, certainly, they are on property books. Over time what we now have is a procedure that actually has biometric data associated with every serial number but again, when this started out, this is a very, very tiny organization, initially, as were the logistical structures. And there was no logistical structure of the Iraqi Army.

When we stood up the organization in the summer of 2004, the Ministry of Defense did not exist. Their joint headquarters was literally a handful of officers with cell phones and so forth and so there was an enormous amount of building that had to be done to rebuild the institutions that we would associate with any normal kind of armed forces.

COLMES: Do you anticipate the same level of troops after the fall?

PETRAEUS: Well, I think, Alan, it's very well known and the secretary of defense and others have all been very clear that the surge has always been viewed as something that is temporary and the Army, the Marine Corps cannot maintain the surge levels of forces. That is well known and so the question is really how and when do we begin to drawdown from that surge and I expect we need a bit more time, certainly, to have a sense of where we'll be a few months hence but General Odierno, the Multinational Corps Commander and I have been working for some time already to do what we call the battlefield geometry, to figure out as all of the troop rotations take place starting in the fall, because there is a large number of brigade rotations that will be ongoing in the fall, the winter and into the spring.

Where is it that we thin out? Where do we want to keep what we have right now and so forth? We obviously want to do this in a way that does not surrender gains that our soldiers have fought very hard to achieve as you would imagine.

COLMES: You know, Admiral Mike Mullen who is testifying before Congress as he is up for chairman of the Joint Chiefs said no amount of troops, no amount of time will make much of a difference in Iraq. Do you concur with that?

PETRAEUS: I think he said something beyond that. Could repeat that.

COLMES: No amount of troops in no amount of time will make difference in Iraq, and I think he's talking about unless you have reconciliation.

PETRAEUS: I think he said no amount of troops in no amount of time will make a difference if there is not commensurate progress on the political level ...

COLMES: Right. It was reconciliation.

PETRAEUS: To eventually lead to national reconciliation. And I have said the same thing. I have said repeatedly that military action is necessary, very necessary but it is not sufficient and I think he is absolutely right.

Long term national reconciliation, the achievement of what we term sustainable security, is only possibly if the Iraqi national leaders can resolve some of these really tough issues with which they've been grappling, issues like the reform of the de-Baathification law, the oil revenue sharing law, provincial powers and provincial elections and so forth.

COLMES: What is your relationship like at this moment with Prime Minister Maliki?

PETRAEUS: My relationship with Prime Minister Maliki is quite good. We talk typically several times a day and meet several times a week. Usually, I -- with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, my diplomatic wing man here and a real consummate diplomat and Arabist. This is his third tour in Iraq.

We are absolute partners in this endeavor, and the campaign plan is a joint campaign plan between Multi-National Force Iraq and the U.S Embassy with the British and Australian embassies and others contributing to it as well.

Again, we have a good -- a very good relationship with Prime Minister Maliki, and that's contrary to some reports that were put out by some political figures in Baghdad ... who were trying to throw sand in the gears of that relationship I believe because he courageously and publicly came out against militias that are associated with some of the political parties of these individuals.

COLMES: Well, "Stars and Stripes," as you're familiar -- as you just alluded to, printed an AP story on July 30th, claiming that Maliki wanted you removed from Iraq because of the strategy of arming Sunni militias and quoted you as saying, I'm going to speak up, and I have on occasion, and you said, another couple of occasions, have demonstrated the full range of emotions in your conversations with Maliki.

PETRAEUS: Well, I think it's important in a hugely important endeavor to our country and when you're representing 160,000 great young men and women as different coalition countries to be very clear at times with your counter-parts. I can assure you that the full range of emotions is a very rare occasion, and in fact, it -- they haven't been in evidence with him (ph) in some number of months. And it certainly is not over the issue of the form -- arming of former Sunni insurgents.

In fact, we -- the ambassador and I met with him the other day, and he has just approved what was really a very tough decision for him, and that is to accept some 1700 or so individuals from the Abu Ghraib area, some of which are clearly former members of the Jashaislami (ph), which was an insurgent group, but which is now decided to oppose al Qaeda Iraq, it rejects the Taliban-like ideology of al Qaeda Iraq, and wants to be part of a legitimate government security forces.

And you know, we sat down with the prime minister and we all agreed that reconciliation is done between former enemies, not friends. That's what makes it so tough. But his office has an organization, the Reconciliation Committee, we have engagement cell (ph) in the Multi-National Force headquarters, it has both diplomats and senior officers in it, and they work together on these types of issues.

But that is what transformed Anbar Province. It was sheiks and tribes who, at best, turned a blind eye to what al Qaeda Iraq was doing before, but then came to some of our commanders and said that they had decided that they were tired of the violence, tired of the demands of this, again, Taliban-like ideology which is really foreign to them in which they had only supported because of their feelings of having been, at least in their perception, dispossessed and really disrespected, if you will, in the wake of liberation.

They came to our commanders, they asked if we would support them if they turned their weapons on al Qaeda, and instead of, in some cases, probably having them turned on us. And I think understandably we applauded, said that we would support them.

And in fact, that has transformed Anbar province from one that was described in an intelligence document last year as lost to one that is now just remarkably different. Peace has broke out in much of Anbar province.

There is certainly still some clearance of al Qaeda needed in the area north of Fallujah in the far eastern part of Anbar province. But I think it has been literally months since Ramadi, for example, once the capital of the new caliphate under Zarqawi, was -- has even had a mortar attack.

COLMES: Can the Iraqi security forces and police be trained? I know that when you were promoted to lieutenant general, you were charged with the task of training the new Iraqi army and security forces as commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command.

How well is that going? Can they be trained? Is it a matter of more numbers? Are you confident that the time will come when they will be able to take over security for their own country?

PETRAEUS: Well, they have actually taken over security in a number of different places, Alan. If you Samawa (ph), Nasiriyah, Najaf, Karbala, we hardly have any forces in those locations at all.

Occasionally they will ask the Special Forces team in the area for some assistance. And we are happy to bring in close air support if needed, if the militias get -- act up or something like that.

There are other areas that have serious al Qaeda threats like Mosul, by the way, which has come back impressively, and which has army police forces that have now proven quite resilient.

In fact, just a few days ago, it was an Iraqi army element that killed the emir of Mosul, the al Qaeda emir of Mosul. That same day they found and cleared I think it was four car bombs.

Certainly al Qaeda has the ability to continue to conduct car bomb attacks, suicide attacks that are trying reignite sectarian violence.

But our soldiers and Marines and other forces have done enormous damage to them in recent months in particular, and especially since in the past seven weeks of this surge of offenses that has been possible by the surge of forces.

Certainly, as I mentioned earlier, look, Alan, there is no two ways about it, some of these Iraqi forces went off the rails during the height of the sectarian violence. And some of that started to appear in the late 2005 period.

And it went through 2006. And in the wake Samarra mosque bombing again, because a major concern, which is way, as I mentioned, the minister of interior has replaced all of the brigade commanders of the national police, the unit most suspected -- actually shown to be -- to have been an instrument of sectarian violence.

And we still have concerns about them. And so you have elements at that level -- or at that end of the spectrum. And then you have others that are very much fighting either in the lead independently or alongside our forces.

And they are losing -- their losses are three times our losses in an average period. So they are definitely fighting and dying for their country. Again they are uneven in quality, but there are dozens and dozens of very good units out there.

And their high-end units are truly very fine elements. Their commando battalions, their counterterrorist force, their national emergency response unit, their special tactics unit and so forth. These are truly legitimate high-end forces that rank with the best of the Special Forces in this region.

COLMES: We only have moment left. I want to ask you, when the president says the same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September 11th, and that is why what happens in Iraq matters for security here at home, is that a nuanced enough understanding of exactly who the enemy is in Iraq?Is it truly al Qaeda or is it much broader than that and much more complex than that?

PETRAEUS: Well, the enemy in Iraq is very, very complex. And as I have mentioned, it is not just al Qaeda Iraq. We tend to see al Qaeda as public enemy number one. But it is probably not the enemy in Baghdad right now even that is conducting the majority of attacks against our soldiers.

That would be these different militia extremist elements that may be conducting as many as two-thirds or so of the attacks. However, having said that, the attacks that have the most strategic significance, the -- again, the car-bombings, the suicide vest attacks and so forth that cause such significant damage to the psychological fabric of Iraqi society and as well as just sheer physical damage, those are conducted by al Qaeda Iraq.

And they are very clearly linked to the so-called AQSL, the al Qaeda senior leadership, located in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border tribal areas, without question. I mean, we -- you have seen released on a number of occasions communications between them. And I can assure you that that does go on.

We have been able to damage very seriously the media operations of al Qaeda in Iraq and their communications ability. In fact, we even killed the three al-Turki brothers, who were former -- in Afghanistan area al Qaeda who were sent over to al Qaeda Iraq to help shore up the situation in northern Iraq, which has been under particular pressure in the last several months.

As we have cleared Baquba, taken al Qaeda out in most of Anbar province, pushed them out of neighborhoods in Baghdad and so forth. But again, there are also still some insurgent groups that are disconnected from al Qaeda. There are other that we call al Qaeda affiliates, if you will.

And so again, this is a very, very challenging endeavor, and that is before we even talk about the violent criminals and others who are taking advantage of the absence of the full rule of law in many parts of Iraq.

COLMES: As you know, there is great political pressure in this country and a great debate that goes on here about whether we should stay or leave or get out or whether this was ever a good idea in the first place.

How does that affect you? And do you see us any time soon doing what it seems like an increasing number of Americans want, which is to bring men and women and wrap this up?

PETRAEUS: Well, as I mentioned, first of all, some are going to come home because, again, the surge is a temporary measure. Again, the duration of our involvement is up to the policy-makers at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and to those who provide advice and consent and resources at the other end.

It is not up to Ambassador Ryan Crocker or myself. Our job is to provide an honest, forthright and comprehensive assessment of the situation, to provide recommendations on the way ahead when those are called for and needed, and we will do some of that in the near future.

And also to provide our assessment of the implications of various courses of action that might be entertained. And that is what we intend

to do when we are back there in September. . . .

There are tons of interesting pieces to this interview and again kudos for a great job by Alan Colmes. I will be blogging on this again tomorrow.

< ACLU Files Motion With FISA Court Demanding Release of Court Opinions | A Father's Pain >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Colmes did a great job (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 09:10:37 PM EST

    This is a long piece but I wanted everyone to have chance to review it and find subjects of interest.

    I am digesting it now.

    Hmm (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by andgarden on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 09:29:04 PM EST
     As Colmes suggests, it can't at the same time be true that Petraeus has a good relationship with Maliki and that  Maliki wants Petraeus to be removed from the country--not unless Maliki likes Petraeus but doesn't think that he is doing an acceptable job.

    PEtraues' response there (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 09:34:50 PM EST
    is certainly bizarre.

    Who in Baghdad is undermining the relationship? Mailiki's aides. Who does Petraeus think is telling them to do that?

    I am actually mor eintrigued with his argument about who is the enemy in Baghdad. I take ithe is saying Sadr's forces are active again.

    I would have liked a question on Basra, which is in turmoil now.


    including something on (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by Compound F on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 09:38:17 PM EST
    the British withdrawal.

    Yep (none / 0) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 09:39:13 PM EST
    Still struggling for short-term control, (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Compound F on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 10:08:52 PM EST
    however long-ranged our designs on Iraq and Central Asia.  Meanwhile, the micro-politics that will be controlling long-term outcomes seem utterly out of our grasp.

    Although neighbor Iran's presence is pervasive -- with cultural influence, humanitarian aid, arms and money -- U.S. officials and outside experts think that the Iraqi parties are using Iran more than vice versa. Iraqis in the south have long memories of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, one U.S. official said, and when a southern Shiite "wants to tar someone, they call them an Iranian." He said the United States is "always very concerned about Iranian influence, as well we should be, but there is a difference between influence and control. It would be very difficult for the Iranians to establish control

    Sure, Iran is happy that we broke the Sunnis' backbone.  Of course they are interested in regional stability involving greater Shiite control.  That doesn't make them bad actors, or overly-influential in Iraq.  The US knows, but will not admit Iran can actually be helpful.

    Oil in the Kurdish north and Shiite south, Anbar Sunnis leaving govt, fearing they get nada, Sadr letting loose in Baghdad, 200,000 Turks on their own southern border, a breaking US military, increased arm sales to various "US-friendly" regimes, the enduring failure to get the oil laws passed, because it is in no Iraqi's best interest--let's just stop there, forgetting about our own failing housing markets, hedge funds, infrastructures--the surge report will do nothing to fix the long-term strategies of the parties ensconced in and around Iraq.  If we keep going at this rate, we will not simply be badly beaten,  but beaten to within an inch of life.  

    Not that I favor a precipitous withdrawal.  You have to involve the Iranians, surrounding Sunnis, and Turks.  Heck, I'd even include the Russians and Chinese.  This mistake affected the entire region, with reverberating consequences.


    I just don't know enough about the current Iraqi (none / 0) (#9)
    by andgarden on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 09:40:19 PM EST
    political environment. The situation reminds me of nothing more than China circa 1915.

    The bascs are this (none / 0) (#11)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 09:45:29 PM EST
    SCIRI - Shia. The Iranian supported Hakim gang. The Badr brigade. Aligned with Maliki's DAWA, less Iranian tied.

    Sadr - Shia. Less Iranian tied but receiving a lot of backing now. IF I read Petraeus' hint correctly, copupled with Gordon's story in the Times today, I expect an accusation against Sadr/Iran in the next few days.

    Read Juan Cole for more background and about the battle for Basra.

    Baathists. Sunni. Anbar still their stronghold.

    Sunni tribes. aligned with Baathists, were sympathetic with Al Qaida in Iraq. Seemed to have turned on them. HAte the Shia. Hate Maliki.

    Allawi faction. Secular. Left the government the other day. Imo, largely a nonfactor.

    This is a thumbnail of cours.e


    And of course Sistani (none / 0) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 09:45:55 PM EST
    but he seems to have retired from politics.

    thanks (none / 0) (#13)
    by andgarden on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 09:50:47 PM EST
    All vaguely familiar. What I should have said is that I know enough to know that I don't know enough.

    The question for me now is: how much Westmoreland is there in Petraeus? I notice that he mentions the ambassador a lot--as if he's completely out of his depth.


    I don;t see much Westmoreland in him (none / 0) (#14)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 10:06:09 PM EST
    I see an ambitious person however and he certainly has staked his career on this.

    I don't either (none / 0) (#32)
    by libertarian soldier on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 07:25:56 AM EST
    Westmoreland made his mark as a combat commander in conventional wars (WWII, Korea) who found himself in an unconventional war and had no idea what to do.
    Petraus made his mark as a thinker, so he starts out less behind the power curve when faced with an unconventional situation.
    As far as mentioning the Ambassador a lot, he should.  The AMB is the POTUS personal rep in country, and the one responsible for all the non-military activities (political, economic, social) undertaken by the US to support the country which, as noted in the transcript, are more important to achieving a favorable solution than the military activities.
    Of course, Rumsfeld would have hated a military guy's comments reflecting that reality.
    As far as ambition goes, he is already a four star.  I would attribute it more to professionalism and wanting to accomplish the assigned mission.

    Petreus speaks so well and gives the (none / 0) (#37)
    by oculus on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 12:18:54 PM EST
    he is levelling--possible Presidential candidate in the future.

    And the Kurds (none / 0) (#20)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 10:46:39 PM EST
    who are getting ready for war with the Turks.

    I've been waiting for that (none / 0) (#21)
    by andgarden on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 10:51:26 PM EST
    for three years. With any luck, the Germans and Israelis will be able to threaten, cajole, and bribe them out of it.

    The kurds in general ? (none / 0) (#27)
    by RedHead on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 12:21:54 AM EST
    Kurds in general (puk, etc.) or "liberation movement" ie PKK/cfdk ?

    too much to keep up with.


    Why is Michael Gordon still on this beat? (none / 0) (#28)
    by RedHead on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 12:27:38 AM EST
    Or should I ask when and why did the Times become advocacy journalists (to be kind) regarding near east asia affairs.

    Clues (none / 0) (#30)
    by RedHead on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 12:38:33 AM EST
    I once heard ben bradlee say a good reporter will provide clues to the identity of his or her unnamed source (as opposed to background source and as opposed to steno sue).

    I thought it was significant that the story first appeared in the torygraph, that they went out of their way to make bush look good, maliki look bad (not on the team, iranian agent, etc.) and the saudis look slightly bad (they're against us but for substantive reasons).

    The only thing the left out was Maliki taking off his shoe and pounding his desk.


    This is ten times more interesting (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 09:38:55 PM EST
    and 100 times more important than what Pollack and O'Hanlon have to say.

    Here's how I read it: (none / 0) (#3)
    by Compound F on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 09:34:08 PM EST
    a stranger walks into town and starts assassinating people, including the local sheriff, destroying critical infrastructure and killing a heck of a lot of citizens, who start shooting back and at each other, until utter mayhem ensues, and then the stranger reports back on the progress in re-organizing peace.  Colmes did do a respectable job, and Petraeus may be sincere, but his report will be about "the peace," not the original crime.

    What Colmes did (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 09:37:27 PM EST
    imo, was ask the questions that needed to be asked and then let PEtraeus talk.

    I see a bunch of things that stand as amazingly problematic for Petraeus in this interview.

    But more importantly, I liked that he said it is not his decision, he is the person executing the strategy of the Administration.

    I also liked that Petraeus stopped talking about what happens if we leave. He is accepting that he needs to argue that his strategy is working. And yet he admits what Mullen said about no political progress.


    And he acknowledged Congress' power (none / 0) (#38)
    by oculus on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 12:21:29 PM EST
    of the purse.

    Here's an incentive for comments (none / 0) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 09:40:48 PM EST
    Tell me what part of the interview you would like to see more indepth discussion of.

    I'll research the best suggestion and write it up tomorrow.

    It's all about diplomacy: (none / 0) (#16)
    by Compound F on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 10:22:56 PM EST
    COLMES: What is your relationship like at this moment with Prime Minister Maliki?

    I'd like to hear Colmes interview Maliki.


    Heh (none / 0) (#17)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 10:34:20 PM EST
    I am interested actually in hearing from Sistani again.

    Where did he disappear to?


    In hiding? (none / 0) (#18)
    by Compound F on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 10:44:13 PM EST
    weren't some of his aides smitten?

    Yes (none / 0) (#19)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 10:46:00 PM EST
    they were.

    I dunno who smote them, or why, (none / 0) (#23)
    by Compound F on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 10:55:18 PM EST
    but I think there have been several assassinations of his people recently.  That's a pretty big deal for a Grand Ayatollah, and a peace-lovin' one at that.

    I think (none / 0) (#24)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 11:00:43 PM EST
    it was Sadr. Sheer speculation on my part.

    Unlikely (none / 0) (#25)
    by squeaky on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 11:22:31 PM EST
    Why? (none / 0) (#26)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 11:25:48 PM EST
    Yes (none / 0) (#34)
    by squeaky on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 09:04:06 AM EST
    You are probably right that the killing was by those associated with Sadr. My reaction to your comment was that I doubt Sadr himself would have either ordered it or sanctioned the killing because that would not be in his interest.  Sistani aides have been killed, beaten and harassed by Sadr splinter groups in the past.

    There is big animosity between some of his men and Sistani and continual allegations that al Sadr was behind violence toward Sistani.

    There has also been allegations that US special ops untis have dressed all in black like al Sadr's men, while on missions. Al Sadr represents the biggest threat to US domination of Iraq.


    They are allies, no? (none / 0) (#33)
    by Edger on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 07:36:01 AM EST
    The Sadr-Sistani Relationship, March 29, 2007:
    By and large, the relationship between the two clerics has been one of asymmetrical partnership, in which al-Sistani plays the superior partner, guiding the younger and less experienced al-Sadr in his quest for becoming a legitimate leader of the Iraqi Shiite community. In doing so, al-Sistani has tried to tame al-Sadr by bringing him into the mainstream Najaf establishment in order to form a united Shiite front against extremist Sunnis and the United States. In return, al-Sadr, who lacks religious credentials, has been using al-Sistani's support to legitimize his religious authority and expand his influence in southern Iraq. The relationship is mutually opportunistic, but also pragmatic, since the two clerics have not been able to ignore each other.

    I seem to recall (none / 0) (#22)
    by andgarden on Wed Aug 08, 2007 at 10:52:21 PM EST
    that he decided to wait for the next arrangement.

    Waiting for Iran--coming to a theater near you!


    I'm quite struck by (none / 0) (#29)
    by Alien Abductee on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 12:29:52 AM EST
    the multiplicity of goals he's aware that he's balancing. The strictly tactical and military:

    Where is it that we thin out? Where do we want to keep what we have right now and so forth? We obviously want to do this in a way that does not surrender gains that our soldiers have fought very hard to achieve as you would imagine

    and the political:

    The interim benchmark report was not an unblemished report. It's more of a mixed bag. There has been progress in certain areas. Certainly there has been tactical progress. There has been progress again in this sort of local reconciliation but there has not been comparable progress at the national political level here in Iraq.

    This isn't so much a war in the old sense of fighting to hold territory or repel an enemy as it is simply a military extension of political maneuvering for resources and influence in the region and for domestic political advantage and extending executive power in Washington. Petraeus seems quite clearly aware that he's balancing all of these, and mixing together the conflicting goals that are tossed off as our rationale for even being in Iraq. He seems comfortable doing this, but it keeps a clear understanding of what the goal is and when or how to reach it from being formed.

    What I'm wondering is what goal is he going to be making his determination on come September -  Is it to fight the terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them over here - McCain's 21st century war? Or is to tamp down the factional fighting to open a space for negotiation among the local sectarian forces?  Petraeus seems to be leaning toward the latter, but how can that be anything but playing whack-a-mole without several hundred thousand troops on hand to actually pacify the country? He seems remarkably sanguine about how that's all coming along. But then the factual picture he's drawing seems sharply different from the one we see in the news each day.

    It's good to see him reiterate this:

    I have said repeatedly that military action is necessary, very necessary but it is not sufficient...

    Long term national reconciliation, the achievement of what we term sustainable security, is only possibly if the Iraqi national leaders can resolve some of these really tough issues with which they've been grappling, issues like the reform of the de-Baathification law, the oil revenue sharing law, provincial powers and provincial elections and so forth.

    But something more comprehensive seems clearly needed to achieve that - more than a few diplomats and senior officers helping out the Reconciliation Committee - like ongoing negotiations between all the parties sponsored by the neighboring powers in the region plus the U.S., all done at a major prestige-on-the-line level, instead of leaving the Iraqis to pretty much work it out for themselves.

    The whole undertaking in Iraq is frankly absurd, and I think this interview shines a light on so many things that don't quite add up, and that he's quite clearly willing to play along with.

    Does this mean anything? (none / 0) (#31)
    by DanAllNews on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 05:28:15 AM EST
    "...literally always a term of qualified optimism or what have you"? This guy belongs in the Bush cabinet.

    Are you changing your views--re Defunding? (none / 0) (#35)
    by timber on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 09:10:47 AM EST

    Not in the least (none / 0) (#36)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 10:18:47 AM EST
    This part is interesting: (none / 0) (#39)
    by oculus on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 12:34:31 PM EST
    Well, I think, Alan, it's very well known and the secretary of defense and others have all been very clear that the surge has always been viewed as something that is temporary and the Army, the Marine Corps cannot maintain the surge levels of forces.

    I've read commentators saying the U.S. military cannot maintain the present levels.  Don't recall reading that the Secretary of Defense has acknowledged this.

    Also [news to me], Petraeus has a Ph.D. in International Relations from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton.

    P.S.  Google of Alan Colmes reveals he is Fox News.  Why not acknowledge this to the non-TV watchers amongst us?  

    Alan Colmes is their pet liberal (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by Alien Abductee on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 01:02:21 PM EST
    Usually utterly neutered, wimpy, and incompetent as an advocate for the sane position on things - in other words, the perfect Fox liberal.

    But then that's just my impression from seeing clips online. Mostly a non-TV watcher here too.


    Jeralyn (none / 0) (#41)
    by oculus on Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 04:22:58 PM EST
    How about bumping up this post?  Lots of pertinent info.