Pentagon Drops Stink Bomb On Petraeus Report? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation


I've decided to tattoo the word "stupid" on my forehead. I've been considering it throughout the last four plus years of being treated as such by the Bush administration. As soon as I get my tattoo, I'm signing up to become one of the live moles in a new carnival game called human whack-a-mole...a game that has grown in popularity since the President spent most of the last five years making it a feature of his strategy in Iraq.

Some have argued that the game's resurgence can be directly traced to the latest troop surge...but there seems to be divergent opinions on that attribution. On the one hand, last week General Petraeus told us the troop surge was succeeding...suggesting that the resurgent insurgency was being abated. Not to be outdone, the Pentagon released its latest quarterly report yesterday...arguing that the insurgency was in fact resurgent...just in different regions of Iraq.

Upon reading about this latest episode of back and forth, my decision to join the carnival was sealed. I just can't continue to sit on the sidelines and let the Bush administration exclude me from the fun they must be having while playing games with the American public. After all, if the insurgents can figure out how to beat the President at his game, I can surely make a go of it in the carnival. I'm convinced the bar just hasn't been set all that high.

Security is deteriorating in southern Iraq as rival Shiite militias vying for power have stepped up their attacks after moving out of Baghdad to avoid U.S.-led military operations, according to the latest quarterly Pentagon report on Iraq released yesterday.

The growing violence in the south is one factor making it unlikely that Iraq's leaders -- hampered by a "zero sum" mentality -- will make headway in the fall on key political resolutions, the report concluded. "In the short term, Iraqi political leaders will likely be less concerned about reconciliation than with consolidating power and posturing for a future power struggle," it said.

Overall, the report detailed both progress and setbacks. It highlighted positive trends such as a recent nationwide drop in sectarian violence, high-profile bombings and total attacks [...] .

But in another trend seen in earlier reports, attacks spread outside the Baghdad area, rising in neighboring Diyala and Salahuddin provinces, where security remains "fragile," as well as in some southern provinces, the report said.

Violence and instability in some southern provinces reflects primarily the growing strength in the region of the Mahdi Army or Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM), the militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the report said.

Moreover, the Pentagon assessment said the Mahdi Army reasserted itself in Qadisiyah province after coalition forces withdrew, illustrating how areas can revert to violence.

In Basra, the city through which 90 percent of Iraq's oil is exported, the report said that the expected continued reduction of British forces had led to insurgent groups "posturing themselves to control the city, where violence has increased due to the presence of multiple Shi'a militias -- most notably JAM and its splinter groups, the Badr Organization and the Fadilah Organization -- and criminal groups."

Meanwhile, the report stated that Iraqi security forces, though improving and maturing, remain hindered by sectarian infiltration.

Amid uneven trends in security and the Iraqi government's "indecisiveness and inaction" on key political goals, the report found that some segments of the population have lost confidence in the government's ability to improve the situation.

As Bill Maher put it today on CNN, it was logical to expect that adding 30,000 troops in Baghdad would reduce Baghdad. At the same time, the predictions of many other observers was equally rational...predictions which relied upon past experience and concluded that the violence would simply shift to other areas which were less secure. Hence, more of the same old game of whack-a-mole.

Perhaps the most significant finding in this new Pentagon report involves the shifting strategies being adopted by the Iraqi's...a strategy which now fully understands the limitations of the current U.S. strategy and has led the Iraqi's to be "less concerned about reconciliation than with consolidating power and posturing for a future power struggle". In other words, the Iraqi's realize there is little to be gained in hashing out issues they expect to explode upon the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

They are simply biding their time while we spin our wheels, train and arm them, and pour cash into a system which is arguably being diverted to the various factions in preparation for future battles. For those who doubt this strategy, keep in mind Moqtada al-Sadr's recent announcement to suspend his militia activities for six months...a move I contend is further evidence of this newly emerging paradigm.

One added likelihood needs to be explored...the one which argues that whoever controls the port city of Basra (think oil) will have an inordinate amount of power and influence over Iraq's future. The fact that the British have pulled most of their troops out of the region and the U.S. has been focused on Baghdad may well play into the plans of those groups intent on capturing control of Basra.

Frankly, the longer we have spent in Iraq, the more breathing space we have afforded to those groups with aspirations on obtaining the lions share of power. In fact, our presence likely provides the time each group needs to better organize for the eventual and inevitable battles.

On second thought, maybe its our President that needs to make a visit to the tattoo shop? While I'm thinking about it, does anyone know of a good the carnival he can join? Oh, one last thing...make sure it's one that needs an experienced whack...a-mole.

Tagged as: Basra, David Petraeus, George W. Bush, Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr, Pentagon, Sectarian Conflict, Troop Surge

Daniel DiRito | September 18, 2007 | 6:54 PM
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