Thursday, November 30, 2006

Much Harder to Shovel Horseshit These Days

Iraq Prime Minister al-Maliki says he didn’t snub President Bush when he backed out of a meeting with Bush on Wednesday. We know he did. Bush says he didn’t take the snub that didn’t happen seriously. We know he did. Bush had breakfast with Maliki this morning. Bush told Maliki the US troops will stay in Iraq as long as Maliki wants them there. We know US troops are going to be pulled out and soon. Bush says he won’t pull US troops out of Iraq until the mission is complete. We know the mission will be called complete whenever Maliki can convincingly be put in a frame for allowing the civil war (currently called sectarian violence) in Iraq. And the reason we know everything that is going on is because it’s become so easy to copy memos, reports, inter-office e-mail and so-called Eyes Only Top-Secret Classified info. And it’s become so easy to find leakers who are only too happy to deliver the goods to any and all media. Last night on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” Lee Hamilton of the Iraq Study Group said, “Let me say two things about the Iraq Study Group. Number One, early this afternoon we reached a consensus. And Number Two, we will announce that on December 6th. That's all I can say.” No problem. This morning the New York Times had a fairly detailed news story (“Panel to Recommend Pullback of Combat Troops”) on what the ISG recommendations will be. ISG is recommending that the US pull back troops from Iraq but gives no timetable. However, the timetable is implicit. We will start the pullback early this coming year. The major part of the ISG’s report had to do with recommending that the US start diplomatic talks with Iran and Syria. It’s just possible that Iraq’s Prime Minister al-Maliki took offense to a November 8th memo from National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley to Bush and Co. The memo was reprinted and analyzed yesterday by the New York Times, Hadley said it was unclear if al-Maliki was simply refusing to take steps to slow the militias' power and drum them out of Iraq's security forces -- or if he lacked the power to do so. Hadley said, “Despite Maliki’s reassuring words, repeated reports from our commanders on the ground contributed to our concerns about Maliki’s government. Reports of nondelivery of services to Sunni areas, intervention by the prime minister’s office to stop military action against Shia targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones, removal of Iraq’s most effective commanders on a sectarian basis and efforts to ensure Shia majorities in all ministries — when combined with the escalation of Jaish al-Mahdi’s (JAM) [the Arabic name for the Mahdi Army] killings — all suggest a campaign to consolidate Shia power in Baghdad.” Think this may have pissed Maliki off? Think pissing off Maliki may have been the reason the memo was leaked? Think the Bush administration may have leaked it? Hadley listed nine things Malaki could do to be an effective leader. Then, after listing six things the US could do to help Malaki, Hadley wrote: “The above approach may prove difficult to execute even if Maliki has the right intentions. He may simply not have the political or security capabilities to take such steps, which risk alienating his narrow Sadrist political base and require a greater number of more reliable forces. Pushing Maliki to take these steps without augmenting his capabilities could force him to failure — if the Parliament removes him from office with a majority vote or if action against the Mahdi militia (JAM) causes elements of the Iraqi Security Forces to fracture and leads to major Shia disturbances in southern Iraq. We must also be mindful of Maliki’s personal history as a figure in the Dawa Party — an underground conspiratorial movement — during Saddam’s rule. Maliki and those around him are naturally inclined to distrust new actors, and it may take strong assurances from the United States ultimately to convince him to expand his circle of advisers or take action against the interests of his own Shia coalition and for the benefit of Iraq as a whole. “If it is Maliki’s assessment that he does not have the capability — politically or militarily — to take the steps outlined above, we will need to work with him to augment his capabilities. We could do so in two ways. First, we could help him form a new political base among moderate politicians from Sunni, Shia, Kurdish and other communities. Ideally, this base would constitute a new parliamentary bloc that would free Maliki from his current narrow reliance on Shia actors. (This bloc would not require a new election, but would rather involve a realignment of political actors within the Parliament). In its creation, Maliki would need to be willing to risk alienating some of his Shia political base and may need to get the approval of Ayatollah Sistani for actions that could split the Shia politically. Second, we need to provide Maliki with additional forces of some kind.” Hadley listed three more things we could do…with subheads, yet. And six “Moving Ahead” items with subheads. Oh my yes…what a detailed little memo. And if the written words weren’t enough to infuriate Maliki, the between-the-lines message was: Maliki is incompetent and dangerous and he’s got to go. Think Maliki was a little put off by it? Think that was the intent of the leak? Time was, when politicians said a thing, even if it sounded like baloney, there was no way to prove it was baloney. Now, when a politician makes a statement, it can be shown six ways to Sunday that it’s a lie. Plus, the real intent of the politician can be shown with subsequent leaks of inter-office memos. But all this access to information is good news and bad news. Having as much information as possible is a good thing. But leaks provide a way for politicians to say what they really believe without saying what they really believe. Duplicity has become triplicity. Which forces us back to trying to discern the truth by reading signs and omens and looking in the eyes of the person speaking. Bush makes it easy. He always lies and is an ignorant sociopath. McCain is almost as easy to read. He’s an ass-kissing, egomaniac neocon who wants to be president more than life itself and he loves war, any war. Cheney is an angry, mean, lying old pol who can’t get it up anymore. But is anyone in the rarified atmosphere of Washington, DC politics thinking about what is best for America and the American people? No. Good Lord no. That’s the last thing in the mind of anyone on Capitol Hill.

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