Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

  Down the Memory Hole: George Bush on the crisis in Iraq

If you're like me, you gasped at the President's audacity in claiming that the US occupation of Iraq was going swimmingly right up until the Samarra bombing of Feb. 22, 2006. His bizarro version of history in the State of the Union address has been echoed repeatedly by the Vice President and various administration toadies.

In the last two years, we've seen the desire for liberty in the broader Middle East -- and we have been sobered by the enemy's fierce reaction... And in 2005, the Iraqi people held three national elections, choosing a transitional government, adopting the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world, and then electing a government under that constitution. Despite endless threats from the killers in their midst, nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote in a show of hope and solidarity that we should never forget.

A thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics, and in 2006 they struck back... In Iraq, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shia Islam -- the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This atrocity, directed at a Muslim house of prayer, was designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shia -- and it succeeded. Radical Shia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads. The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day.

Responding to this blatant attempt to push more than a year of intense sectarian conflict in Iraq down the memory hole, McClatchy now reports on an interview with former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. He says that he warned top American officials two years ago about the danger presented by Shiite militias, which were already infiltrating key Iraqi ministries. Al-Jaafari says that he repeatedly asked the Americans to do something to stop it, before the entire country should be paralyzed by these militias.

Iraq's first democratically elected prime minister said this week that he warned U.S. officials two years ago that Shiite Muslim militias were infiltrating the country's security services and that they would become entrenched in Iraqi society if they weren't stopped.

"But with deep remorse the friends did not help us," said Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who became Iraq's prime minister after elections on Jan. 30, 2005. "America didn't help us."

Al-Jaafari's recollection of his meetings with U.S. officials during his tenure as prime minister raises more questions about the Bush administration's assertion that Iraq's sectarian violence can be traced to the Feb. 22, 2006, bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra....

Al-Jaafari said that in meetings held twice a week in his office, he'd urged coalition forces to take action against the militias. In attendance, he said, was Army Gen. George Casey, then the top U.S. commander in Iraq, the U.S. ambassador, the British ambassador and a British general.

The report also mentions a famous incident from Nov. 15, 2005, in which US troops raided an Iraqi Interior Ministry building and rescued 173 prisoners (mostly Sunnis) who'd been abused terribly by the Shiite militiamen who had long since turned the Interior Ministry into a sectarian fiefdom.

The report obviously is attempting to fact-check Bush's re-writing of history. I wish only that McClatchy had done a more thorough job of it (though it's good to have the PM on record undercutting the administration's ridiculous version of history).

Yet I've been wondering for the last week, and continue to wonder, why journalists have not brought forth documentation to explode the claim once and for all. Why have journalists failed to remind people of one particularly famous document from January 2006? You know, the one reported by the NY Times last April...the one dated Jan. 31, 2006...the one that paints a picture of Iraq in crisis?

An internal staff report by the United States Embassy and the military command in Baghdad provides a sobering province-by-province snapshot of Iraq's political, economic and security situation, rating the overall stability of 6 of the 18 provinces "serious" and one "critical." The report is a counterpoint to some recent upbeat public statements by top American politicians and military officials...

Warnings of sectarian and ethnic frictions are raised in many regions, even in those provinces generally described as nonviolent by American officials.

There are alerts about the growing power of Iranian-backed religious Shiite parties, several of which the United States helped put into power, and rival militias in the south...

The writers included officials from the American Embassy's political branch, reconstruction agencies and the American military command in Baghdad, Mr. Speckhard said. The authors also received information from State Department officers in the provinces, he said....

A copy of the report, which is not classified, was provided to The New York Times by a government official in Washington who said the confidential assessment provided a more realistic gauge of stability in Iraq than the recent portrayals by senior military officers. It is dated Jan. 31, 2006, three weeks before the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra, which set off reprisals that killed hundreds of Iraqis. Recent updates to the report are minor and leave its conclusions virtually unchanged, Mr. Speckhard said.

For that matter, why haven't journalists also pounded home the point that for most of last year the administration insisted that things were going well in Iraq despite the Samarra bombing? For example, in the same NYT article we read...

The general tenor of the Bush administration's comments on Iraq has been optimistic. On Thursday, President Bush argued in a speech that his strategy was working despite rising violence in Iraq.

Vice President Dick Cheney, on the CBS News program "Face the Nation," suggested last month that the administration's positive views were a better reflection of the conditions in Iraq than news media reports.

In their public comments, the White House and the Pentagon have used daily attack statistics as a measure of stability in the provinces. Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a senior military spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters recently that 12 of 18 provinces experienced "less than two attacks a day."

Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" on March 5 that the war in Iraq was "going very, very well," although a few days later, he acknowledged serious difficulties.

Talking out of both sides of one's mouth. The only skill that seems to matter in the Bush administration.


  • If you don't remember the NYT story from last April, I recommend reading the full thing. It's a classic. Among other things, it surveys three months of dissembling by the Bush administration (January to April 2006), as it pretended that the crisis in Iraq was not dire in January; not dire in February; not dire in March; and in April...well, you can guess their assessment in April.

    By Blogger : smintheus ::, at 3:03 AM  

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