Iraq and Petraeus Spin Out of Control

In what the GOP hopes will be a boost for next year's elections, General David Petraeus has broadly hinted in the wake of the worst massacre of the war that the U.S. will be able to start withdrawing troops from Iraq next summer.

harris%2Cpetraeus240.jpgWhat spin. Petraeus has always been used for such purposes. Early in the war, he took a spin over Iraq (right) with Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state who ensured George W. Bush's 2000 election. Years later, he can spin by himself. Yes, the guy is trying to bring good news, but is that what he should be doing? No, we need information that may be hard to hear, instead of information that he thinks his bosses want to hear.

Like Colin Powell at the U.N. in early 2003, Petraeus is being a good and loyal soldier. After the war, Petraeus will no doubt tell it like it was. Who can wait that long?

Unfortunately, the story in today's Times (U.K.), a morsel of good news for the White House and the frantic legacy-building of Bush's handlers, hints that master builder Karl Rove hasn't left the building yet.

But hundreds of Iraqis have left this mortal coil, as the Times (U.S.) reports:

The toll in a horrific quadruple bombing in an area of mud and stone houses in the remote northern desert on Tuesday evening reached at least 250 dead and 350 wounded, several local officials said Wednesday, making it the deadliest coordinated attack since the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The New York Times story simply included a statement from Petraeus condemning the bombings. The Times (U.K.) story went deeper, putting Petraeus's broad hint in the context of Tuesday evening's horror:

The US general overseeing President Bush's surge strategy in Iraq said last night that he would recommend troop reductions by next summer, but cautioned against a significant withdrawal.

General David Petraeus, in comments that appeared to lay the ground for his pivotal report to the US Congress next month, said that the US footprint in Iraq would have to be "a good bit smaller by next summer". But he also signalled that the surge would continue into next year, and gave warning against a quick or hefty withdrawal that could surrender "the gains we have fought so hard to achieve".

General Petraeus said that the "horrific and indiscriminate attacks" on the Yazidi community in northwestern Iraq on Tuesday night were the work of al-Qaeda fighters. The bombings occurred near the Syrian border, and US officials charge the Damascus regime has not done enough to police the frontier against infiltration by foreign fighters who dominate al-Qaeda. Those bomb attacks would bolster his argument, General Petraeus said, against drawing down the 30,000 additional US troops that have made up the surge too quickly. "We know that the surge has to come to an end, there's no question about that. I think everyone understands that by about a year or so from now we've got to be a good bit smaller than we are right now".

Petraeus praises the involvement of Sunnis in the battle against terrorists. But for a more objective appraisal — and details beyond Petraeus's pap — read the Institute for War and Peace Reporting's package on "Security in Iraq," which I mentioned in an earlier post. Those stories make clear that this is a Sunni vs. Shia civil war. Throw in the Kurds, assorted holy wars, mix with oil from southern Iraq, and you've got an explosive mixture—and fires that won't go out.

The question is when we're going to get out. Petraeus's latest hint of pullouts is nothing more than al-yada-yada-yada to placate the American public.


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