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Friday, July 13, 2007

Congressional Merry Go Round Part #2

[Update on top] Michael Yon, in Baquba, Iraq, calls in to Hugh Hewitt's show and answers the question "How goes the fighting on the ground".... CLICK HERE TO READ HIS ANSWER.
[End Update]

About damn time is all I can say to this from The Corner.

Snow: "We Need a Surge of Facts."

Tony Snow, on a conference call with bloggers right now: "We need a surge of facts. That's one of the things we’re going to be working on. I’m going to be doing it from the podium.... So far we have had very few visuals to confirm what Americans want to believe. We have an amazing and heroic American military... The only way to change public opinion [on Iraq] is to present a fuller, more nuanced and more accurate picture."

"We’re gonna present bad news too. You have to... But it’s a miracle anyone supports the war, based on the characterizations that have been painted."

Snow says he's going to put up slides, video, and audio on new screens behind him during the daily press briefing. "We're not gonna spin, but we're going to provide real hard data."

All I could think after just reading the title was "YA THINK? and "NO SHIT SHERLOCK".

Finally the administration understands that they need to INFORM the public instead of leaving it up to the "supposed" reporters that are not there, or are there and using stringers to report rumors that they later have to retract because, ooooops, it never happened.


Better late than never, I guess.

Continuing yesterdays thread here, I see a few things in the news today regarding this issue of the House Vote, and deliberately vague language, in a bill that was meant for the sole purpose of "show". (Via Captain's Quarters)

John Shadegg pointed this out in his speech in opposition to the bill. Since his office has kindly provided it, I will post it here in its entirety. I have it in the extended entry, but this point seems the most germane:

First, it is a purely political document, hopelessly vague and meaningless. Let me explain why. The bill turns on two key terms. One, that the United States transition to a ‘limited presence’ in Iraq within the next 120 days; and, two, that the President provide a justification of the ‘minimum force levels required to protect the United States’ national security interests in Iraq.’

While I am pleased that the authors recognize that we are in Iraq to protect our national security interests, again, the legislation is hopelessly vague and therefore meaningless. Neither of these two key terms, ‘limited presence’ and ‘minimum force level required to protect U.S. national security interests,’ is defined. Oh, the bill has a definition section and other terms are defined, but ‘limited presence’ and ‘minimum force level required to protect U.S. national security interests’ aren’t defined. ...

The Chairman of the Armed Services Committee knows exactly why these terms are not defined, and indeed the Democratic Leadership knows why these terms are not defined. They are not defined because they need ambiguity. Indeed, ambiguity in this legislation is essential to its passage. They know that they can’t agree on what the meanings of these terms are. You see, if they defined ‘limited presence’ as too many troops, then their most liberal, most antiwar Members would not vote for the legislation. They couldn’t. And, if they defined limited presence too low, then their Blue Dog Members would not support the bill. Again, this bill is about beating up on the President and about scaring nervous Members of Congress.

That post on Captain's Quarters is a MUST read, that small excerpt I showed you is barely the tip of the iceberg.

Wapo has an fascinating article called "Deserting Petraeus"

Finally, after four terribly long years, we know what works. Or what can work. A year ago, a confidential Marine intelligence report declared Anbar province (which comprises about a third of Iraq's territory) lost to al-Qaeda. Now, in what the Times's John Burns calls an "astonishing success," the tribal sheiks have joined our side and committed large numbers of fighters that, in concert with American and Iraqi forces, have largely driven out al-Qaeda and turned its former stronghold of Ramadi into one of most secure cities in Iraq.

It began with a U.S.-led offensive that killed or wounded more than 200 enemy fighters and captured 600. Most important was the follow-up. Not a retreat back to American bases but the setting up of small posts within the population that, together with the Iraqi national and tribal forces, have brought relative stability to Anbar.

The same has started happening in many of the Sunni areas around Baghdad, including Diyala province -- just a year ago considered as lost as Anbar -- where, for example, the Sunni insurgent 1920 Revolution Brigades has turned against al-Qaeda and joined the fight on the side of U.S. and Iraqi government forces.

I encourage you to go read it all.

LA Times shows us that the Initial Benchmark Report gave Bush what he needed to quieten down the GOP Senators to allow Petraeus the time previously promised to him to do his job. (The easy to read graph can be found here)

WASHINGTON — Stemming a revolt among Senate Republicans, President Bush appeared Thursday to win two more months for his "surge" strategy in Iraq after arguing that U.S. forces had made some progress and needed time to make the country more secure.

Issuing a report to Congress on the war, Bush acknowledged that Iraqi leaders had made little headway in resolving the political conflicts that have paralyzed the government and fueled sectarian violence.

But he appealed to nervous Republicans to stand firm, arguing that lawmakers should not impose their judgments on the commander in chief.

"I don't think Congress ought to be running the war. I think they ought to be funding the troops," Bush said at a White House news conference.

Leading Republicans said they remained skeptical that the buildup of 30,000 troops would work, but they appeared to have accepted the president's plea to wait until a more comprehensive Pentagon assessment is released Sept. 15 before trying to force any change in course.

"In deference to the president … I think it's important that we wait until all the facts are in in September," said John W. Warner (R-Va.), former Senate Armed Services Committee chairman.

The Hill's article points out that while 4 Republican house members crossed the aisle to vote on yesterdays "show bill" that has no teeth, might not make it passed the Senate and is assured to be vetoed without the votes to override the veto if it does make it passed the Senate, but 10 Democrats crossed the aisle to vote against it.

The 10 Democrats who voted no were Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Chris Carney (Pa.), Brad Ellsworth (Ind.), Tim Holden (Pa.), Jim Marshall (Ga.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Vic Snyder (Ark.), Gene Taylor (Miss.), and Dennis Kucinich (Ohio).

House Republican leaders had expressed confidence their members would largely reject the withdrawal plan.

Boehner had criticized Republican senators who’ve broken with Bush as “wimps.” He defended those comments yesterday, saying that he wanted to illustrate the absurdity of debating Iraq before the surge has been fully implemented.

The number of Republican defections was far below the 17 who broke with Bush on the surge vote in February.

The failure to get more Republicans this time could turn the head-scratching among war opponents in the caucus into criticism. Progressives say they had signed on to a series of votes that would gradually increase the pressure on Republicans.

By fast-forwarding to a vote on withdrawal, some Democrats fear leaders may have struck too soon and lost their advantage.

I guess timing is everything huh?

ABC shows us that Baghdad Reid has avoidance issues when the topic is Iraq security:

But under questioning from ABC News, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., refused to discuss whether the United States had a moral obligation to secure the country for Iraqis or even answer questions as to whether withdrawing troops would make the country safer for the tens of millions of Iraqis who live in the country today.

Todays articles also include an interview done by Hugh Hewitt with Joe Lieberman.


HH: Senator, I want to talk about this war vote that’s been going on up there.

JL: Yeah.

HH: What would the effect be of the imposition and the implementation of an arbitrary date for the draw down of American troops in Iraq, Senator Lieberman?

JL: Well, I think it would be a disaster. I mean, first thing, obviously, it would send a message to al Qaeda and the Iranian-backed terrorists that they know when we’re leaving, they should wait us out. Second, the Iraqi political leadership that we have been working so hard and pressuring to come to some kind of political reconciliation, they would exactly pull back from that, and they’d begin to, not just hedge their bets, but hunker down for what they would all assume would be a civil war. And I’ll tell you, just give you an anecdote, I was in Iraq about a month ago. I was in the city of Ramadi, which we’ve cleared of al Qaeda, quite remarkable, standing with a group of Iraqi and American soldiers. The local general of the Iraqi forces asked if he could talk to me privately. And Hugh, to tell you the truth, it has happened once or twice before, I thought he was going to ask me to do what I can to get them better equipment and weapons and all. Instead, he said he watches American television by satellite, and he said he’s very worried, and he said please go back, when you go back to Washington, tell your colleagues who want to set a deadline for withdrawal and get out of here, that they’re basically signing my death sentence. And not only mine, but my family. And you know, he’s right.

HH: He’s right. Well, some of your colleagues said on the floor yesterday that the surge had already failed. Are there any reports that have been given to Congress that seem to indicate that? Is there something we don’t know about? Because the surge, if you read Michael Yon’s dispatches…

JL: Right.

HH: If you read John Burns in the New York Times, it seems to be working.

JL: Right. Absolutely right. Look, there is a gap between the real war that’s being fought in Iraq and the political war over the war in Iraq that’s being fought here in Washington. And very often, the statements in the debate here have very little to do with the reality on the ground. Every indication, really remarkably, when you think about the fact that there just the full complement of troops about a month ago for the surge, it’s showing tremendous results. The reduction in sectarian in Baghdad, number one goal, al Qaeda chased out of Anbar Province, and then uniquely, they ran a lot of them to Diyala Province, as you know, instead of, as always before, when we couldn’t chase them. Now, we have enough people because of the additional surge forces. We went after them, and we’ve got them on the run there. So no, these are people…the surge has not failed. People say the war is lost. The war is not lost. These are people, to put it as bluntly as I can, they’re talking about a change in course of our policy in Iraq. What they’re really talking about is accepting an American defeat there, which is a victory for al Qaeda and Iran, and that’s about the last thing any of us should want.

HH: Yesterday, Senator Lieberman, Michael Ware said that your optimistic assessment of conditions in Anbar suggested that, quoting now, “Senator Lieberman has taken an excursion into fantasy.”

JL: Yeah.

HH: What does…does Ware get out much? Did you guys visit the same country?

JL: (laughing) Well, this is not the first time Mr. Ware, who’s got a very gloomy view of what’s happening there, anytime he says something positive about the American effort there, I feel it must be really good. And I can only tell you, and this will be confirmed by any number of my colleagues, including some of those who don’t feel as strongly as I do about the war who’ve been to Anbar, it’s just a fact that al Qaeda was in control of the place, they were beginning to settle down to make Anbar Province, an enormous part of Iraq to the west of Baghdad, the capitol of their new Islamist republic of Iraq. The chief of Marine intelligence said nine months ago, Anbar was lost. And at that time, he was right. They’re gone. I mean, the tribal, the Sunni tribal leaders are now back in, I walked through the streets of Ramadi, it’s a city that shows the signs of having had terrible conflict, but it’s totally peaceful now. And so fantasy is one thing I’m not engaged in. You can disagree with my opinion, but I saw with my own eyes.

HH: Does the American media generally, getting…walking away from CNN or Mr. Ware…

JL: Yeah.

HH: Does it generally produce coverage that strikes you as balanced? Or is it just overwhelmingly defeatist?

JL: It’s very negative, and I mean, I think it’s really hurt the war, the political war at home. Look, the American military, working together with coalition forces including Iraqis, will never lose the war in Iraq. I just can’t stress that enough.

HH: Right.

JL: We will never lose the war in Iraq. If America suffers a defeat in Iraq, it will be because the American people didn’t stick with it, didn’t have the will. And some people here in leadership positions politically were so much against it that they built up that public opposition, that a lot of it is framed by the media. I won’t say a lot of them lie, but the constant focus is on the suicide bombers. And I know that’s news, but you know, the suicide bombers are our enemy. They’re carrying out more dramatic acts because we’re on the move, and we’ve got them on the run. And incidentally, Hugh, they’re not only trying to kill Iraqis and Americans with the suicide bombs over there, they’re trying to kill American support for the war in Iraq.

HH: Sure.

JL: They’re trying to affect American public opinion, and unfortunately, they’re succeeding.

HH: When you talk with a Tim Russert or a Wolf Blitzer, or any of the big Beltway media types, do they display to you, on air or off air, any grasp of the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq?

JL: Oh, I must say in fairness, I never much get into that. But that is the point. This is a battle, and no matter what you thought about us going in, and of course I supported it, and no matter whether you think we made mistakes after Saddam was overthrown, which I do, the fact is we’re now…two things. One is, the President made a change in policy – the surge, a new general, Petraeus. It’s a dramatic difference. It’s working. But honestly, who are we fighting there? We’re fighting al Qaeda and Iran. And that’s the consequences. You know, one of the generals when I was over there last time, said to me a month ago, when you talk to your colleagues in the Senate, tell them if they don’t like what’s happening in Darfur, they’re going to really hate what happens here in Iraq if we pull out too soon.

HH: Right. In a statement earlier this month, Senator Lieberman, you said that, and I’m quoting here, “The fact is that the Iranian government, by its actions, has declared war on us.” Given that, if President Bush announced he felt compelled to take military action against Iran, would you support him?

JL: Yeah, of course I would. My instinct would always be to support the commander-in-chief. Right now, what I’ve been focused on is the evidence that the American military has put before us more and more detail, most recently about a week ago Monday, General Kevin Bergner, and our spokesperson in Baghdad, documents, evidence that the Iranians are taking groups of Iraqi terrorists to three training bases on the outskirts of Tehran, and they’re training them in the use of sophisticated weapons that are then being brought back by them into Iraq. And they have resulted in the deaths of literally hundreds of American soldiers. So you know, we’ve raised this with them…and I always want to give them a chance, so we raised it with him at the one meeting that occurred between the American ambassador, Baghdad and the Iranian in May, and I gave them the evidence, asked them to stop. They haven’t. I’m very pleased that yesterday, I sponsored an amendment resolution in the Senate, it passed 97-0, documenting the case, kind of an indictment against Iran, and basically telling them to stop it. And it’s not an authorization of use of force, but it’s not a prohibition of it, either. And if the President decided to take action there, of course I would support him.

HH: If our intelligence, and the intelligence of other countries, told us that Iran was reaching that critical mass, or going critical, capability of nuclear weaponry, would you advise the President to strike those facilities in which that capability was being assembled, Senator Lieberman?

JL: Well, you know, I should leave him some room, but I think he’s made clear, and a lot of us have, that you know, this is dilemma, and the kind of inconsistency here, Hugh, that we’ve got most every member of the Congress, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, has said we cannot allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. This is a state where since the revolution of ’79, they gather in the tens of thousands and shout death to America, death to America. Ahmadinejad says he wants to wipe out Israel. You could go on and on. And nuclear weapons in their hands would be a disaster, a whole nightmarish development in the world. But a lot of my colleagues, after they say we can’t let it happen, they think we can talk the Iranians into changing their plans. The Europeans talked to them about this for more than two years, and they did nothing. So we’re squeezing them economically with some sanctions. We ought to toughen the sanctions, and yes we have to be ready to do everything we can to knock out as much of their nuclear program as possible, if all else fails.

Definitely read the rest, some interesting tidbits that I didn't show you are there.

Last but not least, Victor Davis Hanson writes a piece addressing the New York Times desire to surrender to al-Qaeda.

Tracked back by:
Progress in Iraq from