Expecto Petraeus

Frank Rich writes about the magic spell that President Bush is invoking in the hope it will protect him from his dementor-ish approval ratings:

It was The Washington Post that first quantified General Petraeus’s remarkable ascension. President Bush, who mentioned his new Iraq commander’s name only six times as the surge rolled out in January, has cited him more than 150 times in public utterances since, including 53 in May alone.

As always with this White House’s propaganda offensives, the message in Mr. Bush’s relentless repetitions never varies. General Petraeus is the “main man.” He is the man who gives “candid advice.” Come September, he will be the man who will give the president and the country their orders about the war. …

This general may well be, as many say, the brightest and bravest we have. But that doesn’t account for why he has been invested by the White House and its last-ditch apologists with such singular power over the war. …

… the Petraeus phenomenon is not about protecting the troops or American interests but about protecting the president. For all Mr. Bush’s claims of seeking “candid” advice, he wants nothing of the kind. He sent that message before the war, with the shunting aside of Eric Shinseki, the general who dared tell Congress the simple truth that hundreds of thousands of American troops would be needed to secure Iraq.

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NPR’s Tom Bowman is a tool — serving this morning as an “implement, instrument or utensil” for the dissemination of GOP talking points. Here’s what he said today about Joint Chiefs nominee Adm. Mike Mullen:

“He will likely bow to Gen. Petraeus, who of course is going to report in September on the progress of the surge, and he will not be calling for, like the Democrats are, for any precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops …”

Ah, yes, “precipitous.” Way to work the talking point in there, Bowman. Tool.

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Editor & Publisher’s Greg Mitchell brings us the strange saga of Basim Ridha, who had a speaking role in David O. Russell’s Three Kings in 1999, and today works as an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, overseeing all official executions. Your life is strange. Basim Ridha’s is stranger.

Mykelti Williamson as Col. Horn in Three Kings in 1999:

What do you want to do? Occupy Iraq and do Vietnam all over again? Is that what you want? Is that your brilliant idea?

B-b-b-but no one could have foreseen …

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It’s been more than three months since we’ve heard from Riverbend. I am worried.

  • Drocket

    Bush seems to be pretty confident that Petraeus is firmly in the Republican camp. I’d bet that he has a lot of GOP ‘helpers’ looking over his shoulder to make sure that the report turns out ‘right’. I think we can easily predict what the report will be: a mixture of spinning failures to look like successes (see the recent Bush administration report on Iraq for examples) and taking minor, insignificant victories and ignoring massive, devastating failures (again, see the recent Bush report. For example: the number of beheadings in Bagdad is down. Overall violence, both in the country and Bagdad itself, is up significantly, sure, but, um… one particular form of death in one particular city is down! Woohoo, we’re winning!)
    What will be interesting is if Petraeus has a crisis of conscience and actually decides to tell the truth. The number of lives of American soldiers he’s responsible for his a heavy burden, and it’s made plenty of people who used to hold his position break. If that happens, we of course know what will happen: he’ll immediately be replaced, and Bush will insist we give General X 6 months to prove himself in Iraq. Tenth verse, same as the first nine and all that.

  • Drak Pope

    Isn’t Petraeus planning to arm the Sunni insurgents? Isn’t that the reason why, according to this article (— http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/07/28/wirq128.xml —), the Iraqi Prime Minister has said that he wants Petraeus replaced? I’m not sure that Bush’s increased trust in this man is a very good idea, especially if he’s trying to sell the idea of Iraq being a respected, successful, sovereign country.

  • Jeff

    NPR’s Tom Bowman is a tool
    NPR is a tool. I refuse to donate to any local radio station until they stop using the American Enterprise Institute or Dinesh D’Souza as sources.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    I have been telling myself that moving to another country is reason enough for Riverbend’s long silence: there have been long gaps before.

  • Nenya

    I have been telling myself that moving to another country is reason enough for Riverbend’s long silence: there have been long gaps before.
    Yes, so have I. I really hope she’s okay. They were pretty sure they were moving, and to where, last we heard, right?

  • John H.

    Anyone who refers to fighting terrorists as fighting terror is a tool.

  • Edward Liu

    I have a slightly skewed view of Gen. Petraeus because I read “In the Company of Soldiers” before his ascent to power. The book follows Petraeus as he leads the 101st Airborne Division through the invasion of Iraq. I remember Petraeus expressing skepticism about the point of the exercise to the author several times (I believe the phrase was, “Tell me how this all turns out again?”). He struck me as the kind of guy who really should have been running the war from the start if we were serious about the current reasons for starting it. Under his command, the 101st established a lot of policies that led to real success and stability in their area of operations until they rotated out. They’re also all the same things that are being done on a larger scale now (minus the whole “arming the militias” thing, which was surprising and deeply alarming to me). If the Bushies were serious about winning over hearts and minds, I thought they should have promoted Petraeus and given him free rein 2 or 3 years ago.
    He has his critics, of course, and I don’t think anybody gets those stars on their collar without being something of an egomaniac, but on the balance he always struck me as a smart guy who saw the big picture and recognized that not all problems are solved by shooting them.
    I am a bit alarmed at how quickly he’s risen with the Bushies, though, because nobody ascends in the Bushies unless you swear your Undying Loyalty to them Forever, and competency in what you do is not a requirement for promotion. The problem is that there’s no way to tell if Petraeus was put in charge because there was recognition that things were going wrong and Petraeus can do the right thing, or because the low-bullshit general who ran one of the more successful occupation/reconstruction efforts in Iraq has since sold his soul to the dark side. Given the results of everybody else the Bushies have raised to power, though, I’m not exactly optimistic.

  • Ron

    Brilliant post title. Thanks for the laugh.

  • Barry

    Edward, it’s pretty clear by now that Bush/Cheney are really just playing for time. They want to leave office with the war still going, because they can claim that ‘we were winning’ until the Evul Librulz….
    As for Petraeus, remember that he was in charge of training the Iraqi Army a while back, when the Winning Strategy was ‘as they stand up, we’ll stand down’. That’s not being talked about much.
    He’s somewhere around 1 win/1 loss, and that’s counting his 101st tour as a win (four months after he had left, all hell broke loose in his area).
    And the fact that Petraeus has been promoted under Bush is a strong disrecommendation, in my book.

  • http://www.johnnysstew.com/cool/coolwet.html J

    As always with this White House’s propaganda offensives, the message in Mr. Bush’s relentless repetitions never varies.
    Has Bush ever waged a successful propaganda battle? I think he’s only “the decider” because he realizes his CRIPPLING limitations as “the persuader”. Social Security reform, immigration reform, this war, that war, etc. Whatever it is, Bush can be guaranteed to launch a piss-in-the-wind promotional tour in support of it.
    “…General Petraeus is the “main man.” He is the man who gives “candid advice.” Come September, he will be the man who will give the president and the country their orders about the war. …This general may well be, as many say, the brightest and bravest we have. But that doesn’t account for why he has been invested by the White House and its last-ditch apologists with such singular power over the war. …”
    There will be no surprises in September when Petraeus “reports” back to Congress. He will give a speech that was written in May and is currently sitting on a hard drive somewhere in the White House. As he sits in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee in May, Cheney’s hand will be so far up the man’s ass that his tonsils will itch.
    And what will Petraeus tell us? More war, please. We can’t leave now. Those Iraqi security forces? They’re almost ready. Significant progress… Significant challenges…Turning point…The next six months…Going forward…Adaptable…Coalition….Change course…On the ground…Commanders in the field…Insurgency…Sunni… Anbar Province…

  • Drak Pope

    Has Bush ever waged a successful propaganda battle?
    He managed to convince the world that he was a bumbling idiot and that everything he does is not out of greed or cruelty but out of stupidity and incompetence. That’s a pretty amazing trick, and even though it’s obviously wrong it’s clear that the United States at least still believes it.

  • Jeff

    He managed to convince the world that he was a bumbling idiot and that everything he does is not out of greed or cruelty but out of stupidity and incompetence.
    Greed and cruelty are not mutually exclusive with stupidity and incompetance. Look at Bush’s history. Everything he does is tinged with greed, cowardice, bullying and incompetance.

  • Drocket

    He managed to convince the world that he was a bumbling idiot and that everything he does is not out of greed or cruelty but out of stupidity and incompetence. That’s a pretty amazing trick, and even though it’s obviously wrong it’s clear that the United States at least still believes it.
    I’m pretty confident that Bush IS an incompetent boob. The problem is that he’s an incompetent boob who’s at the beck-and-call of Cheney, who most certainly is a greedy, evil man. Arguing whether Bush is responsible for his policies is like arguing whether a ventriloquist dummy is responsible for what it ‘says’. Either way, the result is the same.

  • Drak Pope

    Greed and cruelty are not mutually exclusive with stupidity and incompetance. Look at Bush’s history. Everything he does is tinged with greed, cowardice, bullying and incompetance.
    That’s certainly true but Bush (and/or his apparatchiks) has people convinced that he’s only a puppet or that he’s too stupid to understand what he’s doing to his country and the world. The Bush administration can be frighteningly effective when they want to be; they’ve managed to deteriorate infrastructure dramatically, convince their supposedly fiscal conservative base that lowering taxes and entering monstrously expensive wars is financially sound, sell important Iraq reconstruction contracts to their friends and leaving Iraqi people out in the cold, and convincing the entire world that they don’t know how bad this is. If they had directed that same kind of deep cunning towards Katrina relief, Iraq war/reconstruction management, foreign policy in general, we’d all be pro-Bush. That they haven’t speaks much about their contempt for the world in general and America in particular.
    Arguing whether Bush is responsible for his policies
    There IS no argument. If Bush IS the originator of his policies, then he is responsible. If Cheney or Rove or whoever are in charge, then he is still responsible for making sure that they don’t damage his government and his people. I don’t know about you, but I’m not buying this line about Cheney being some kind of super-powerful Sith Lord and that Bush has no control over the Executive Branch. Cheney might be smart, but the only way he could have taken all that power away from Bush is with Bush’s acquiescence. Remember, this isn’t the only president that Cheney has served under; he was the State Secretary under Bush’s father and H.W. managed to keep him under heel where he belongs. If Bush does not wish to stand up to Cheney, fine, but he should not be let off the hook because of that.

  • Drocket

    If Bush IS the originator of his policies, then he is responsible.
    He shares responsibility, but it’s not entirely his. It’s the difference between being a murderer and being an accomplice to murder. Just because I’m saying that he’s not the one pulling the trigger isn’t to say that he’s blameless.

  • Grimgrin

    http://www.gocomics.com/rallcom/2007/07/23/
    Ted Rall weighs in on the wait for Petraeus.

  • Fhydra

    About Riverbend. I heard two months ago in late June or early July that she was leaving Baghdad. I haven’t heard any news since then.

  • Anonymous

    The only thing I like about Petraeus is his name. He sounds like a Roman general. In fact, one of Pompey the Great’s legates was named Petraius!
    If only Bush had a general like Gaius Marius or Lucius Cornelius Sulla…..

  • Drak Pope

    If only Bush had a general like Gaius Marius or Lucius Cornelius Sulla…..
    Yeah, but all of his generals are more like Fabius Maximus than anything else.

  • cjmr

    Dunno, I think there are at least a few generals that resemble Biggus Dickus…

  • http://www.johnnysstew.com/cool/coolwet.html J

    Isn’t Petraeus planning to arm the Sunni insurgents?
    Yes, I heard that too. And it will end badly for all concerned us and them. Mark my words.

  • Drak Pope

    Speaking of which, Petraeus just lost a whole bunch of weapons. This guy is so competent it makes my eyes bleed.


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