The Crucifixion of Petraeus

McQ beat me to it on the campaign to discredit General Petraeus as an Bush administration hack. This is doubly ironic considering Petraeus’ long standing and cogent criticism of the way the war was being fought. A man so devoted to changing things he bucked traditional combat doctrine and pushed hard, with career risk involved, to change things. His efforts included the rewrite of the military’s counterinsurgency doctrine, the aggregating of men outside the establishment such as David Kilcullen in putting together the doctrine and advising him in the present campaign. Yet Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Sullivan have the gall to portray him as a partisan hack. Sullivan didn’t even bother to read the transcript first.

If I were eager to maintain a semblance of military independence from the agenda of extremist, Republican partisans, I wouldn’t go on the Hugh Hewitt show, would you?

Actually I expect he will do what he has, appear in a number of venues and forums, not just those Andrew Sullivan approves of.

So how is General Petraeus, who until this assault on his credibility was considered innovative, untraditional, a maverick even, known as a straight shooter by those covering Iraq, being turned into a partisan hack? Well McQ covers the silliness about him appearing on Hugh Hewitt, which is pretty irritating given how many interviews he has given in a variety of formats. No, Greenwald and his talking points have been taken up by many, and they exhibit the same kind of deceptive manipulation that we have come to expect from the sock puppet. Is it possible he could get lost in a dryer?

The method is consistent. Take quotes that fit your case, surround them with rhetoric which leaves the reader interpreting them in the worst light possible, ignore contrary evidence, and rely on your readers prejudices to leave them with impressions which fit your agenda. The key of course is Petraeus has said encouraging and positive things in the past. Some might have even been questionable. Perfection being impossible to achieve I’ll leave it at that. One thing the yellowed piece of dirty laundry doesn’t address is, even if these selected quotes are representative of the man’s thoughts, are they true? That is where his rhetoric and readers prejudices are so important. Of course they are not. They say positive things, how can they be true?

And we have achieved what we believe is a reasonable degree of tactical momentum on the ground, gains against the principal near-term threat, al Qaeda-Iraq, and also gains against what is another near-term threat, and also potentially the long term threat, Shia militia extremists as well.

To believe that is of course false, a lie in fact. That is gospel in the world of talking footwear fans. Never mind the almost universal acknowledgment (even amongst those who think the surge is a bad idea and the progress will prove ephemeral or unable to be extended geographically and temporally enough to make a lasting difference) by those familiar with the situation that that statement is true. Of course the Puppet Master doesn’t think there has been meaningful progress in Anbar either, which means those who disagree with his views from Brazil are dishonest on that issue as well.

Or take this highlighted phrase:

we think that we have them off plan.

Note the word think. Actually that has to be false modesty, of course we have them off plan. You can’t suffer the losses they have and not be off plan. The crucial question is can they be kept off plan enough to change the outcome on a positive fashion. The General is hardly gushing on this, but he certainly expresses his hopes and believes it is possible. Yet this is what Petraeus says following that statement:

Now having said that, they clearly retain and have demonstrated, tragically in recent, the past week or so, the ability to continue to carry out sensational attacks. . . .

So there has been considerable progress against them, but they do continue to receive foreign fighters through Syria, who become suicide bombers in many cases, and they do certainly have an ability to regenerate, to regroup, and to come back at us. . . .

The Puppet highlights the phrase above, but notice all the negative and truthful aspects around it. Of course, all the evidence is that the highlighted phrase is true as well. Does that mean the battle, much less the war is won? Of course not. What is Petraeus supposed to say? Sure we have driven them from many places, captured leaders, killed many of them and disrupted supplies and on and on, but it does not mean we have made progress?

So how does the Puppet characterize what we have just read?

It sounds like the Surge sure is working, we are winning, Al Qaeda is on the run, The Terrorists are being killed, and Freedom is on the March.

The sad thing is people actually pay more attention to that kind of drivel than the cautious assessment we have actually been given. Of course that isn’t what really carries the day, because people might read the whole interview or reflect on what was really said. So we get the goods on him, he has said positive things before, and because those positive things are obviously not true in the world of footwear, Petraeus is a dishonest hack.

The Air Force Times reported on November 5, 2005 (via Lexis):

There are more than 211,000 members of the Iraqi security force, including police, border patrol and military members, said Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, former multinational security transition commander in Iraq, and the number keeps growing. . . .

Petraeus, now the commanding general of the Army’s Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., compares the training of Iraqis to a stampede, and to illustrate, he pointed to a painting by Frederick Remington.

“I can tell you there is very substantial momentum in this effort,” Petraeus said, pointing to a reproduction of “The Stampede,” which shows a galloping horse, during remarks at an event sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Nov. 8 in Washington.

Funny thing is, what in this statement wasn’t true? As far as I know, nothing. One would think that the Iraqi security forces had made no progress at all over the last few years. Still inadequate to the task? Definitely. Does that change the veracity of anything said above? No. I love this one:

Even in the Spring of 2006, when the Iraq civil war erupted by all accounts, comments from Petraeus continued to be cited as proof of how well our occupation was progressing.From the U.S. Army War College’s Parameters in March, 2006:

Most important, there is one critical difference — and it is that our current strategy is showing signs of succeeding. Iraq’s third successful election in the course of one year provides evidence that we and the Iraqis are successfully isolating the insurgents politically, if not physically. . .

The National Strategy for Victory in Iraq states that progress on the political front has led ordinary Iraqis to provide better intelligence on insurgent activity. According to the Brookings Institution’s December 2005 Iraq Index, such tips reached an all-time high in November. More important, the Iraqis’ increasing commitment to the political process has led to an increasing and tangible commitment to the Iraqi state. In a key indicator, recruiting for Iraqi security forces continues to outpace requirements. Moreover, according to Lieutenant General David Petraeus, those security forces are increasingly capable of independent operations.

Now an astute reader would note the problem with this right off. March was right after the bombing of the mosque in Samarra, the bombing that turned a difficult situation in a different direction. Sectarian strife exploded. If it hadn’t been curtailed even the most staunch believers in us staying would have had to conclude it was time to go. I know that McQ at QandO and myself were nearly at that point. Something had to change. Prior to that however, the situation was very difficult, but it was not the same. The Puppet knows this, as his comment about the eruption shows, yet Petraeus is to be held accountable for something said before that event, as anything published such as this essay was written much earlier?

Or, I should say the man who said that would have to be held accountable for such a thing. Amidst all the highlights it might have been missed that Petraeus said none of this. It was all said by Wade Markel! He is just saying that Petraeus believes the Iraqi military is increasingly capable, a statement that is undoubtedly true. Capable enough? Not according to Petraeus in the interview that has set the Puppet off. Sadly, the article by Markel is quite good, though few Puppet fans will bother to read it. It is arguing that the strategies of counterinsurgency that he is describing will not be necessary. Do we even know if Petraeus would disagree? I would have guessed he would have, though I think he also probably felt the article was a worthwhile read.

Dishonesty? From whom? The highlights of other peoples words are purposeful, to give the impression to the careless reader (and given the frequency of this kind of thing, what other kinds are there at his place?) that they are words to be associated with Petraeus, and that they were uttered in the midst of the eruption in violence in the Spring of ‘06. This is typical of the Greenwald/Coulter style of argument. Yet undoubtedly, just to defend the unfairly attacked (if in the disguise of Petraeus) Markel, this was written well before March of ‘06. In fact, the statements are very reasonable anyway. Al Qaeda made the right move, it changed things. That doesn’t mean no signs of success (Since when did “signs of success” become a sunny pronouncement anyway?) were present before then.

Or try this:

An article from Agence France Presse, quoting Petraeus, reported on November 7, 2005:

“Huge progress” is being made in training Iraqi combat troops, and 24 homegrown battalions have now taken control of assigned territory, the general formerly in charge of the massive program said Monday. Lieutenant General David Petraeus said in an address that by the time of Iraq’s looming election in December, it was hoped to have 230,000 trained and armed Iraq security forces operational. . . .”Twenty-four of their battalions had assumed their own battle space. That is very, very significant,” Petraeus, who handed over control of the training effort in July, said.

Was that false? In the year after handing it over to work on changing the way we fight insurgencies his hopes were not really fulfilled, but note he said hoped, not guaranteed. The progress was real however, the forces were larger and better trained than before he began. They did not make the progress hoped for, and many units became heavily involved in the sectarian violence of ‘06. None of that makes him a liar or a hack. He generally received high marks for his work. His preferred strategy was not in place however, and much of what happened can be traced back to that fact.

We then get a bunch of statements from Bush and Fred Kagan and Jack kelly touting his work training Iraqi forces, as if that is some kind of proof of something negative about Petraeus, but in the sock puppet world, to be spoken well of by others must prove something. Bizarrely, the highlighted statements about him proved to be overly optimistic, but are not false either. How these statements make him a hack isn’t really developed, other than an attempt to show that other people swallowed Petraeus’s lies from earlier, which as I have shown, are not really there. That is typical Greenwald however, layer on enough stuff with all the real evidence merely your characterization, with the actual stuff that people say being a mere flourish. The quantity of quotes and links seems to impress many, their actual substance just doesn’t seem all that important. Get this quote:

Petraeus’ assessments of Iraq were equally sunny in early 2005. From a March, 2005 Press Release of the Army News Service, entitled “SECRETARY SEES ‘SOLID PROGRESS’ IN IRAQ”:

“The latest polls are quite heartening,” said Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, commander, Multi-National Security Transition Command — Iraq, while updating the secretary on the training of the country’s forces. “The Iraqis are by nature an optimistic people.” This is evident in the fact that 8.4 million people risked the potential election-day violence Jan. 30 to vote for the 275-member transitional Iraqi National Assembly.

“The weight of Iraqi security forces is being felt,” Petraeus told Harvey. There are more than 145,000 Iraqi soldiers who are trained and individually equipped, with 35,000 more in uniform and awaiting training.

He was optimistic in his assessment of progress. “Iraqi security forces are in the fight, and Iraqi leadership and coalition force back-up are the keys to success.” . . .

Comparing Army units to football teams, [Army Secretary Francis] Harvey told Soldiers stationed at Abu Ghraib that he will do his best to provide the best game strategy, coaching and training possible.

“As long as I’m around, I’ll ensure that you remain strong and well-equipped,” he said.

“I think that we’ve turned the corner,” he said. “It’s not over yet, but we’ve done it before, in France, Italy, Germany and South Korea, we have a long history of spreading peace and freedom around the world.”

Notice the slight of hand again. Petraeus talks of heartening polls, which they were. He talks of the training of Iraqi forces, truthfully. Then the puppet highlights someone else’s words again. The sunny “turned the corner” talk isn’t Petraeus, it is Harvey. Why do that? Because most people when things are highlighted skim to the highlights, and will not notice.

Finally we get this:

Cheery statements from Gen. Petraeus about the Iraq war extend back further still. Here is what he told Charlie Rose on March 1, 2004:

We saw this in terms of Iraqis giving information about bad guys in their neighborhoods, about where weapons caches were, where improvised explosive ambushes were found and so forth. And we saw that increasingly during our time there. Sometimes I think I found after I came back that people think that Iraqis did not appreciate what our soldiers did. To the contrary, and in fact in Mosul, the Moslauis, the people, are actually going to name a street the “101st Airborne Division Boulevard.” It’s Frakamia Waha in Arabic, and so I think that was just indicative of that kind of support.

On the other hand, although they would say quickly thank you very much for what you did, we appreciate your liberating us, or sometimes even we appreciate the good deed you just did, they would then have many more good deeds that they wanted us to do. And we jokingly used to say that the reward for a good deed was a request for 10 more good deeds. . . .

But what I would say is that there has been enormous progress just in the seven or eight months that we’ve actually been recruiting, training, equipping and employing Iraqi security forces. Huge progress. The ones that I recounted about the border police, civil defense corps, police and facility protection security forces, not to mention the new Iraq army, which I think just had its fourth battalion graduate from training the other day.

Increasingly, they’re coming online.

Uh, what isn’t true there? His campaign in Mosul won widespread praise. There was enormous progress in training the security forces.The problem isn’t his veracity, it is that absent him the changes didn’t stick. Some of it he may not have been able to sustain, we don’t know. His descriptions however were accurate, and the puppets quotes eliminate all the cautious, cautionary and at times discouraging comments. In the end the puppets entire complaint boils down to stuff he didn’t say and that Petraeus claimed we were making progress training troops. Notice how much is about training troops. From Petraeus we get no turning the corner talk, no blueprints for victory. We get sober accounts of the good and the bad, though there is no doubt he believes some measure of success is possible. The Sock Puppet King wishes to cherry pick his positive statements and ignore the rest to dissuade his readers from even bothering to read the full body of his statements. Any positive things to say prove what a benighted fool or charlatan one is, and he has trained his readers to believe that as well. Typical and shameful.

Read the actual interview, you will not recognize Petraeus as the same man caricatured by the most dishonest spinner in politics. I also suggest this from General Odierno.

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3 Responses to “The Crucifixion of Petraeus”

  1. on 20 Jul 2007 at 7:35 pm Joshua Foust

    My big concern isn’t that Petraeus is somehow dishonest, but that he’s been set up as a sacrificial lamb by the Bush Administration. Did you notice in the last press conference on the topic how Bush kept mentioning his name, as if he were The Messiah of Iraq? Especially given my opinion (rehashed ad nauseum) that we don’t have much chance of success, it seems like Bush is looking to pin the blame for the war failing on Petraeus, rather than his years of failed policies.

    General Petraeus has been unfairly treated by both sides, in my view. He is neither saint nor villain, and no one is done any favors by treating him as either.

  2. on 20 Jul 2007 at 11:13 pm Lance

    I agree that he may end up being treated that way, though I don’t think Bush is doing that on purpose. I think he believes he has hit on the man for the job, kind of like Lincoln when he found Grant. I don’t think the administration, at least not Bush, will turn on him if they start to struggle. Aides? Well yeah, that will happen. There are always people looking to pass bucks and deflect accountability. If it comes to panic time many will be looking for any cover they can find. Kind of like many of the formerly prowar types have already done. The idea that this was always possible, that in fact you go to war expecting the kind of stuff we have seen, just makes them look too bad. So their vitriol is at how bad they have been made to look runs over.

  3. on 20 Jul 2007 at 11:16 pm Lance

    Still, if you are going to make him a shill, it would be nice if you actually had him making some of the happy talk, rather than the kind of crap we see from EllersMcWilson above.

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