Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Thursday, September 06, 2007

  The Jones Commission throws Bush a lifeline

As I predicted yesterday, based upon a pre-publication summary by CNN, the new report to Congress by the Jones Commission tries to soft-peddle the unfolding disaster in Iraq. Sure it’s a mess, the commissioners say, and there’s little sign of political reconciliation among Iraqi factions, but we should remain bogged down there anyway (only less so).

And just as predictably, both proponents and critics of the policy of quagmire took the Jones Commission report as confirmation of their previous views.

Still, as the International Herald Tribune perceived, the commisioner’s testimony today in the Senate was directed mainly toward providing cover for George Bush.

…the 12-to-18-month estimate until Iraqi forces gain autonomy, described in the report and by Jones in congressional testimony Thursday, would push back further into the future estimates of when American forces can step back from their leading role…

When McCain asked Jones whether a timetable for withdrawal would be advisable, the general replied, "I think a deadline of this magnitude would be against our national interest."

And we know that Bush’s policy has been to run out the clock on his presidency and leave the nightmarish occupation to his successor. Recently Bush had this to say in private interviews at the White House:

For now, though, Mr. Bush told the author, Robert Draper, in a later session, “I’m playing for October-November.” That is when he hopes the Iraq troop increase will finally show enough results to help him achieve the central goal of his remaining time in office: “To get us in a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence,” and, he said later, “stay longer.”

So whatever carping General Jones and his fellow retired officers may do in the report about what are (after all) absolutely glaring problems in Iraq, at the end of the day they made it their goal to provide cover for the current administration policy.

Their report is (as I commented yesterday) fulsome in its praise for alleged improvements in Iraqi military forces. It doesn’t really peel back the surface to consider whether appearances match reality. I remain highly skeptical that the Iraqi armed forces have significantly improved in effectiveness, cohesion, and leadership. American forces certainly don’t trust them.

And, anyway, the absurdly rosy picture the Jones report paints of the pathetic Iraqi navy and air force gives the game away entirely. The commissioners, as we see in this most ridiculous section of the report, are perfectly ready to talk nonsense about Progress. I discussed this in some detail yesterday, so I’ll simply point you toward pages 72-85 of the Jones Commission Report and ask whether their discussion of the Iraqi navy and air force makes any damned sense.

Furthermore, the commissioners‘ notion that the escalation has lessened violence in Iraq is demonstrably false. Inadvertantly, they have supplied an illustration at page 34 which demonstrates why all the happy-talk about decreased sectarian violence in Baghdad misses the point. As the maps of Baghdad show, the ethnic cleansing of the city has progressed rapidly during the past year. There are now very few mixed Sunni/Shite neighborhoods left. The Shites have succeeded in driving Sunnis out of most of the city, and such violence as persists in concentrated in the few areas where Sunnis retain a toehold. Is the Bush administration going to try to chalk that up as a victory for the escalation?

All the talk about levels of violence in Iraq is merely a distraction from the truly important point. The escalation was sold to the American public, as even Gen. Petraeus admitted, in order to give Maliki’s government time to advance the process of reconciliation. It hasn’t happened. Indeed, Maliki is now much weaker politically than even six months ago. All the rest is blather.

I noted in very short order some truly egregious flaws in this report. For example, it attributes to Iran nothing but malign influence in Iraq even though some prominent Iraqis have praised the stabilizing influence of Iran. But, then, the commissioners didn’t bother to talk to many Iraqi government officials…not even Prime Minister Maliki nor his predecessor, Ibrahim al Jaafari.

Characteristically, however, they did find time to talk to the dimbulb who dreamed up the escalation, Fred Kagan.

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